August 6, 2009

Proper introduction

2.students at PSP.small.jpgstudents at PSP.small.jpg

  • Working in a Bloomington clinic that served many immigrant patients who lack insurance convinced Maarya Pasha of Apple Valley that she wanted to learn more about health care for the needy.

  • Coming from California, Justin Kohl wanted to gain knowledge about his new community and its variety of populations.

  • Growing up "sheltered" in Austin, Minn., Tyler Conway wanted more experiences of different cultures.

  • Theirs are some of the reasons two dozen future physicians chose to spend three days prior to their official orientation to the University of Minnesota Medical School immersed in an "Introduction to the Urban Area" program. They learned from faculty, community members, and community activities about the Twin Cities, cultural nuances, and, particularly, health disparities.

    Health disparities material simply is not in the curriculum, says organizer Ken Dodd, a second-year medical student. He and co-organizer Nancy Cole borrowed the idea of this pre-orientation introduction from another medical school. Fortunately, they found faculty supporters who are passionate about the topic. "They saw the need was there," says Dodd.

    Stereotypes directly affect clinical decision-making, said Sean Phelan, an advanced student who has a master's in public health. Cancer care providers, for instance, are likely to underestimate pain in minority patients. The good news? Care providers can learn to focus on unique individuals rather than their group.

    Faculty speakers also included Kola Okuyemi and Michele Allen from the Medical School Program in Health Disparities Research, Eric Meininger from Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, Associate Dean for Students and Student Learning Kathleen Watson, and Kathleen Call from the School of Public Health. Mitchell Davis from the Minnesota Department of Health also presented to the group on health disparities.

    Leaders from the local Hmong and Somali communities made strong impressions on the students, offering insights about everything from gender considerations (Somali women want female doctors and Somali men, males) to their difficulties in the health-care system. Community activities included door-knocking to inform south Minneapolis residents about a free clinic in the Sabathani Community Center and taking part in activities at People Serving People (in photos, above), Dorothy Day Center, and Neighborhood House .

    Another lesson? "You have to get political," says Ali Samikoglu, from Rochester, Minn. "With only 15 minutes [to see individual patients], you're really hitting the wall in care of the underserved." Compensation and systems have to change, he added. As medical students, he and his peers must take responsibility: "We are now part of the system."

    Students were positive about the Introduction. "It was spectacular, from A to Z," said Adam Krause, from Mound, Minn.

    Dodd benefitted, too. He had the valuable experience of organizing this brand-new three-day learning event from scratch. Even better, he says: "I've gotten to learn along with the students."

    July 2, 2009

    Historian Eyler brought old perspective to students

    Historian John Eyler has made a lasting impact on his University of Minnesota students and Medical School colleagues throughout his career--and they on him. Jole Shackelford, a colleague of Eyler, recalls: "John was a presence in our office area on the 5th floor of Diehl Hall. He was not a noisy personality, yet he was the focal point for much of the daily discussion, humor, news, banter, etc., that fills up the audio spaces of daily academic life."

    Reflecting on his time at the University of Minnesota, Eyler says, "I have appreciated the fact that the Medical School is adjacent to the undergraduate campus. This fact has allowed our program to participate in the undergraduate curriculum, graduate education in the history of science and medicine, and in the Medical School. Teaching at all of these levels has been very rewarding. I am very pleased to see former undergraduate students of mine in Medical School, and, more recently, on the Medical School faculty."

    His colleague Jennifer Gunn notes: "Every medical student in recent years has been ushered by Dr. Eyler into the sacred arts of anatomy through the perspectives of Vesalius, Morgagni, and Hunter. eyler.jpgHis lectures in physiology and human behavior and the student bioethics series have stimulated a steady flow of medical students to explore historical interests through an elective in medical history.

    Eyler's research interests span such topics as: the development of health policy, history of disease, the evolution of social welfare, the changing nature of hospitals, the history of public health, preventive medicine and the history of epidemiology. He has been published on those topics, as well as with articles connecting poverty and disease and the history of vital statistics. Eyler's two books are Victorian Social Medicine: The Ideas and Methods of William Farr and Sir Arthur Newsholme and State Medicine, 1885-1935. His most recent research focuses on the study of influenza in the 20th century.

    John Eyler started his academic career by earning a B.A. in history from the University of Maryland in 1966. He went on to receive his doctorate in history of science from the University of Wisconsin in 1971. He then completed a two-year post-graduate fellowship in history of medicine sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Josiah Macy, Jr., Foundation. Eyler's teaching career began in the history department of Northwestern University, prior to joining the History of Medicine Program at the University of Minnesota in 1974. Eyler found the University of Minnesota a good place to settle and to thrive. Under his leadership, the graduate program in the History of Medicine has expanded and successfully merged into a joint graduate program in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. Indeed, the graduate programs in History of Medicine and the History of Science and Technology have consistently ranked among the country's best.

    Eyler retired from the position of Program Director and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Minnesota-History of Science, Technology and Medicine in late June 2009.

    "My colleagues have been cooperative, responsible, energetic, creative, and good company," says Eyler. "I owe them a great deal."
    --Brittany Frascht

    June 17, 2009

    Pharmacologist "provocative"

    Pharmacologist Li-Na Wei has been described as "persistent and defying dogmas to reshape the course of studies in her field." That's why she was named one of the four Distinguished McKnight University Professors for 2009. The U's Web site has more about this "upstream freestyler extraordinaire."

    May 27, 2009

    Carole Bland award winner announced, faculty recognized at assembly

    Elizabeth R. Seaquist, M.D., was honored with the first Carole J. Bland Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award, May 26, a highlight of the 2009 Celebration of Faculty and Faculty Assembly. “Carole devoted her entire career to the development of faculty,” said Medical School Dean Deborah E. Powell, M.D.; she showed that mentors are essential. “Betsey exemplifies Carole’s gift for mentoring.” The Minnesota Medical Foundation award was established by Carole Bland’s widower, Dick Bland, and includes funding along with recognition.

    Faculty who had been previously recognized at the April 17 Medical School-MMF awards ceremony also were honored, as were 42 faculty promoted to associate or full professor.

    Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs Roberta Sonnino presented information about the Pulse Survey. Participation rates for the Medical School faculty were lower than the Twin Cities campus mean. Still there was good news: “We seem to like the people we work with.” Responses indicating dissatisfaction with the tenure process should begin a dialogue, said Sonnino. Finally, in these economic straits, she asked, how can we show we value faculty and staff? One faculty member commented on the lack of recognition for weekend work by clinical faculty. “Duly noted,” she said.

    David Ingbar, M.D., incoming chair of the Faculty Advisory Council, recognized Carol Lange, Ph.D., for her service as chair over the last year and noted some of next year’s activities for the FAC.

    In addition, questions were solicited (but none emerged) on the hard-copy reports from the Education Council, Admissions Committees from both campuses, and Scholastic Standing Committees on both campuses.

    May 11, 2009

    Graduation 2009 -- St. Pierre's speech

    "All of us in this room have now been in school for some 20 years--those who were more ambitious in college, a little less, those with PhDs, a little more," said Stephanie St. Pierre at the 2009 Medical School graduation May 2. "Just think of how many people that ends up being who have taught us along our educational paths—from our first teachers in preschool, to those who inspired us in high school, to a university mentor, to a community physician. By my count, that's between 100 and 200 teachers we’ve had in our lives--those who have helped form who we are, who have fostered our interests, who have helped direct us toward this path of medicine. Through our years in medical school, we have learned immensely from brilliant professors and physicians, from each other, and, of course, from the textbooks; but most of all I think our best learning has come from our patients." For the entire speech, go to:
    Download file

    April 7, 2009

    Medical students mesh arts and medicine

    “Exclude nothing.” That is the artistic mantra from Gertrude Stein that Robert Fisch proclaimed to the group gathered March 24, 2009, to honor recipients of the Fisch Art of Medicine Student Awards. Fisch, an emeritus professor of pediatrics, established the awards with his wife, Karen Bachman.

    Six medical students received funding and encouragement for artistic pursuits, as announced at this second annual colloquium. Their projects included writing, visual arts, comedy, and music.

    Third-year student Preeti Kaur Rajpal participated in the Voices of Our Nations writing workshop in the Bay Area. It was founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz, who writes about immigrant and second-generation experiences. She also collaborated with The Loft in Minneapolis to produce a poetry CD entitled Nations of Immigrants? Rajpal, who is interested in global development issues, will study how public health messages may be delivered through street theater in other countries.

    Andrea Noel used her Fisch award to study clowning and improvisational comedy. “My two biggest passions are medicine and performance. [Comedy is fun to perform and] laughter is healing.” Among the other recipients, Kathryn Brown is studying pottery, Katie Pastorius, visual arts, and Amanda Schlesinger, who could not attend, plans to do work at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies.

    Paul Schaefer, who considered both music and medicine as a career, first chose music. Then, while teaching music at UW River Falls, he found “I hadn’t gotten rid of the medical bug.” And he still loves music; with his Fisch award, he has been studying voice with John De Haan, chair of the U’s voice department. Accompanied on the piano by his wife, Elizabeth, the tenor sang “Vainement, ma bien-aimee,” by Edouard Lalo. Schaefer is a fourth-year medical student who has matched at the University of Minnesota’s residency program in family medicine at St. Joseph’s Hospital, St. Paul.

    His role model is Jon Hallberg, the creative director of the Medical School’s Center for Arts and Medicine that helps sponsor the Fisch awards. Hallberg, who serves as physician for the Guthrie Theater (among others), closed the evening with: “I think all of you are thinking: ‘These are the physicians we’d seek out.’”

    April 1, 2009

    Beyond Norman Rockwell

    Thugs made Therese Zink turn to her journal. While she was on an aid mission to Chechnya in 2000, her boss was kidnapped. Fortunately, after a month, he was returned but the mission ended abruptly. “Needing to understand that,” says Zink, “got me writing.”

    Writing again, really, as the family medicine physician had pursued an undergraduate double major in English and theology and, as a resident here at Minnesota, studied literature and poems by physicians such as William Carlos Williams with faculty member Nancy Baker. Now, however, she is writing to share with others.

    When she became a faculty member involved with the Rural Physician Associate Program, she saw an opportunity to help students do similar reflective writing. RPAP students are “on their own,” she notes, not able to share stories with peers on the wards. The program set up a secure Web site where students may post experiences—such things as encountering trauma; helping a birth in an Amish home; or caring for hometown patients they’ve known since birth.

    Some students touch on universal emotions such as joy and grief, the first code, or the death of a patient, Zink finds on reviewing the stories. Students who show potential to go beyond simply recording to deeply reflecting will be invited by Zink to work with her. “Some do; some don’t,” she says.

    Those who do have collaborated with Zink on many articles, including 11 stories published in journals such as JAMA, Academic Medicine and Minnesota Medicine. One recent piece by former RPAP student, now physician, Cesar Emilio Ercole reflected on the profound implications of an immigrant’s accident.

    “This is much more than Norman Rockwell’s doctor,” Zink says of today’s rural practice. Cultural issues, robotic doctors, and exchanging health information electronically are part of a complex mix in rural practice. She has been collecting today’s rural health stories for The Country Doctor Revisited, which will be published in 2010.

    Meanwhile, she also promotes reflective writing as a tool of professionalism among her physician colleagues at conferences. And word is getting around about her skill at mentoring students in skillful writing, the kind that brings a reader into the scene and moves them emotionally. Says Zink: “I’ve been getting request from non-RPAP students to write, too.”

    March 18, 2009

    Match Day preview podcast

    During Match Day, a rite of passage, University of Minnesota fourth-year medical students find out where they will study as residents – becoming official doctors-in-training. Go to and click on the Match Day podcast to learn more. Match Day takes place Thursday, March 19, in McNamara's Great Hall.

    March 13, 2009

    Students display work at Research Day, March 16

    Review 65 research posters by students at the eighth annual Alfred F. Michael Student Research Colloquium, March 16. Our distinguished researchers Daniel J. Garry, M.D., and Joseph Metzger, Ph.D., will speak on "Designing Hearts," 4-5 p.m. With a teleconnection to Duluth, all events take place at Mayo Auditorium. Poster session takes place 2-5 p.m., with a reception, 3-4 p.m.

    March 10, 2009

    News from the Program in Health Disparities Research

    Connections, the newsletter from the Program in Health Disparities Research, is available online. To subscribe to the e-newsletter and receive up-to-date news from the program, send an e-mail message to .

    Health disparities research RFP directed to community-based programs

    The Medical School's Program in Health Disparities Research announces the 2009 Planning Grants in Health Disparities Research Program. These grants are designed to encourage community-initiated research and foster sustainable and long-term collaborative research between community-based organizations and academic researchers on projects focused on eliminating health disparities. This request for proposals is directed to community organizations in the state of Minnesota. Community organizations must submit a proposal by March 31st.

    March 4, 2009

    NIH Challenge Grants announced

    NIH has designated at least $200 million in FYs 2009 - 2010 for a new initiative called the NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research, in which 200 or more grants will be funded. The application due date is April 27,
    2009. The NIH has identified a range of Challenge Areas that focus on specific knowledge gaps, scientific opportunities, new technologies, data generation, or research methods that would benefit from an influx of funds to quickly advance the area in significant ways. The NIH has details and the U also offers deadline information.

    SIV barrier shows promise for human battle with HIV

    “After 25 years, an effective vaccine for HIV is still on the distant horizon, so not only vaccines, but all research into ways to prevent the continued spread of this lethal virus remains critically important,” said Ashley Haase, M.D., principal investigator of the study. “If GML as a topical microbicide can help prevent infection, it could contribute to saving millions of lives.” Haase and Pat Schlievert, Ph.D., Department of Microbiology, published their research on the naturally occurring glycerol monolaurate in the March 4 online Nature.

    March 3, 2009

    Women in Surgery, April 24-25

    The Second Annual Women in Surgery Conference focuses on "Taking Charge: Professional Development for Women Surgeons." Featured speakers include Nancy Ascher, M.D., Chair of Surgery at the University of California San Francisco and U of M alumna, and Marie Wilson, founder of the White House Project that promotes women in leadership. The conference will take place April 24-25 at the Weisman Art Museum; call 612-624-5442 for more information.

    February 27, 2009

    Divani: Stroke patients also may have heart failure

    As noted in a recent issue of the online Doctor’s Guide, Afshin A. Divani, Ph.D., and his team reported that 10 percent of stroke patients have coexisting heart failure. They require longer hospital stays, more intensive care, and additional procedures. In addition, they have an overall greater cost of care compared to those stroke patients without heart failure, according to a study presented Feb. 19 at the International Stroke Conference (ISC) 2009.

    "Of about 600,000 stroke patients in the US in 1995 and in 2005, around 10 percent had heart failure," lead author Divani, of the University of Minnesota Stroke Center told the Doctor's Guide. "These stroke patients with heart failure should be looked at more seriously and rigourously for treating both stroke and heart failure. Physicians have to look for heart failure in stroke patients in order to find it."