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January 2007 Archives

Third-year medical student Beth Wheatley was awarded the Schuchard scholarship this year and last. “Dr. Schuchard’s scholarship has come at just the right moment in my life,” she says.

Three years ago, Gregory Schuchard, M.D., took stock of his career and achievements and concluded it was time to act. The 1979 University of Minnesota Medical School graduate made a $100,000 commitment to fund a scholarship for a student who starts medical school in Duluth. "I decided that it was time to give back, right now, while I had the opportunity to influence how my contribution was used, to see the results, and even challenge my classmates to consider doing something similar," says Schuchard, who completed his first two years of medical school on the Duluth campus.

Alport syndrome researcher Clifford Kashtan, M.D.

A member of Al Schuman's family—"a young man I absolutely adore," he says—has Alport syndrome, a genetic kidney disease characterized by the progressive loss of kidney function and hearing. Most males who develop Alport experience renal failure in their late teens or twenties. Currently, there's no proven treatment.

That's all Schuman, recently retired chairman and CEO of Ecolab, Inc., needed to hear before he started searching the country for Alport syndrome experts.

Najarian walks with one of his most famous patients, Jamie Fiske. Now a healthy woman in her twenties, Fiske is the world’s longest-living pediatric liver recipient.

By age 79, most people have retired. Not John S. Najarian, M.D. After 40 years as a pioneering surgeon in the University of Minnesota's Department of Surgery, he remains devoted to his passion—transplantation.

"Solid organ transplantation, the University of Minnesota, and the name John S. Najarian are virtually synonymous in the surgical world," says David A. Rothenberger, M.D., deputy chair of the Department of Surgery and holder of the John P. Delaney, M.D., Chair in Clinical Surgical Oncology. "The program Dr. Najarian developed here has trained more leaders in clinical transplantation than any other, and his successors continue to lead the world in this ever-evolving field."


Quintin Williams is an expert on work. At 20-something, Williams has held more jobs than he can remember. But there's one job he'll never forget: the industrial battery factory in Chicago where he suffered serious burns in an explosion of molten lead.

Now, with support from a William Randolph Hearst Foundation scholarship, Williams is pursuing a doctoral degree in occupational injury prevention in the School of Public Health (SPH) that will make him an expert on safe working conditions.

George Mairs (foreground) and his doctor, Edward Cheng, M.D., share a professional and personal relationship. Their friendship inspired Mairs and his wife, Dusty, to endow a chair in orthopaedic surgery, naming Cheng as the first chairholder.

When George Mairs, at age 72, went into surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, to remove a soft-tissue sarcoma, his hopes were fixed firmly on recovery. He wasn't banking on emerging with a life-changing friendship as well.

But six years later, a healthy and energetic Mairs counts his surgeon, Edward Cheng, M.D., as a valued friend. "Dr. Cheng is not only a fine surgeon but also a fine human being," Mairs says.

David Ingbar, M.D., and Marshall Hertz, M.D., are leading the University’s new Center for Lung Science and Health.

When Dave Amato was diagnosed with usual interstitial pneumonitis in 2002, the life-threatening lung disease was already at an advanced stage. Soon his wife, Anne, was on the phone with lung transplant centers all over the country, including the transplant center at the University of Minnesota.

Less than two years later—thanks to two unrelated lung donors and the medical team's expertise—Amato had a successful living-donor lung transplant at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.


Pregnant women who receive nonsurgical treatment for periodontal disease do not lower their risk of delivering a premature or low-birthweight baby. The results come from the largest clinical trial to date evaluating whether treating periodontal disease during pregnancy reduces the risk of early delivery. Observational studies have suggested that gum disease might be a risk factor of preterm birth. The theory is that bacteria associated with periodontal disease spread to the womb to induce preterm delivery, or that the body's response to periodontal bacteria indirectly induces preterm delivery.


Teenage girls who frequently weigh themselves are more likely to binge eat and resort to unhealthy dieting measures, according to new research from SPH professor Dianne Neumark-Sztainer. A study published in a recent issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health found frequent selfweighing in teenage females did not help with better weight management. And the most frequent scale-steppers were more likely to skip meals, use diet pills or laxatives, smoke to lose weight, and binge eat.


Robert Veninga came to the School of Public Health as an instructor in 1969. Throughout the next 37 years, he served the school in various roles, including professor, division head, program director, and associate dean. Now, as he retires from an accomplished career, a colleague has inspired Veninga to step into yet a new role: philanthropist. SPH alumna Janet Porter (Ph.D. '93) and her husband James O'Sullivan made a generous gift to establish the Robert and Karen Veninga Scholarship Fund.

During his tenure as dean of the Medical School–Duluth Campus, Rick Ziegler, Ph.D., emphasized the importance of building relationships, including those with students.

Not many students can say they've been sailing with the dean of their medical school. But Sonia Karimi can. So can Dann Bowman. "It was amazing, definitely one of the highlights of my time here," says Karimi, a second-year medical student at the Duluth campus. "I can't imagine another medical school in the country that has a dean who volunteers to take students sailing," adds Bowman, also a second-year Duluth student.


A book written by Medical School alumnus and faculty member Steven H. Miles, M.D., on the medical mistreatment of prisoners in U.S. military prisons continues to draw international attention.

Published last year by Random House, Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror, on the role of medical professionals in the abuse and neglect of prisoners held in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay, was reviewed last fall by the New England Journal of Medicine, the Lancet, and the British Medical Journal.

Monuments along Scholars Walk recognize other intellectual successes of alumni, faculty, and students.

Dedicated in September, the University's Scholars Walk prominently and permanently recognizes the intellectual successes of faculty, students, and alumni whose academic and professional endeavors have changed the world.

Scholars Walk is made up of three parts: the walk itself, a 2,200-foot-long pathway on the East Bank campus featuring the names of University community members who have won prestigious awards; the Wall of Discovery, a 253-foot-long artistic tribute to the process that leads to great moments of discovery; and the Regents Plaza, a monument recognizing University Regents and recipients of the Regents Award.

Thumbnail image for Joan Adams (center) and award recipient Forrest Adams, M.D. (right), Class of 1943, greet Carol Moller as Antoni Diehl, M.D., Class of 1947, looks on. (Photo: Tim Rummelhoff)

If you know someone affiliated with the University of Minnesota Medical School who deserves recognition for his or her exceptional accomplishments, the Medical Alumni Society wants to hear from you. Nominations are now being accepted for three major awards, which will be presented September 28 during the 2007 Alumni Reunion Weekend:

The Harold S. Diehl Award honors individuals who have made outstanding professional contributions to the Medical School, University, and community throughout their careers.

Medical School alumni Michael Armstrong, M.D., Barbara Sigford, M.D., Ph.D., and Larisa Kusar, M.D., collaborate on rehabilitation plans for soldiers with multiple injuries in the Polytrauma Center at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

For three University of Minnesota Medical School alumni, news headlines drive home their daily reality: Fewer soldiers are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, but more are coming home severely injured.

Barbara Sigford, M.D. '87, Ph.D., Michael Armstrong, M.D. '01, and Larisa Kusar, M.D., a resident alumna, treat injured soldiers at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC). They are part of a specialized rehabilitation team at the VAMC's Polytrauma Center, one of four in the nation.

Maryam Valapour, M.D.

Center for Bioethics faculty member Maryam Valapour, M.D., hopes to improve living-donor lung transplantation for both donors and recipients with a $750,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study barriers to the procedure.

Valapour, who is also an assistant professor of medicine in pulmonary and critical care, will be comparing policies and practices of living-donor kidney transplantation with living-donor lung transplantation at a group of institutions that perform or have performed both types.

David McKenna, M.D.

In research likely to improve understanding of lung development and disease, University researchers have coaxed umbilical cord blood stem cells to differentiate into a type of lung cell.

These lung cells, called type II alveolar cells, secrete surfactant, a substance that allows air sacs in the lungs to stay open so air can flow in and out. They also help to repair injuries to the airway.

Alan Sinaiko, M.D.

Insulin resistance in the early teenage years may portend cardiovascular disease and diabetes in adulthood, according to University researchers.

A study by Alan Sinaiko, M.D., professor of pediatrics in the Medical School, and colleagues tracked insulin resistance in 224 Minneapolis public school students at ages 13, 15, and 19. Results indicate that the prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors and type 2 diabetes are related to the body's decreased response to insulin, independent of obesity.

Thumbnail image for University President Robert Bruininks, Ph.D., presents a medallion to John S. Najarian, M.D., in honor of the endowed chair established in his name.

The designation of Rochester as the University's fifth official campus will benefit health care statewide, President Robert Bruininks told the Rochester Area Higher Education Committee in November.

The University of Minnesota-Rochester will be a major hub of a new statewide Center for Allied Health Programs, will have a core of full-time faculty in Rochester, and is establishing a center for bio-informatics and quantitative studies in the life sciences, said Bruininks. "UMR has great potential to benefit not only southeast Minnesota but also the state—particularly its health-care infrastructure and resources."

Harry Orr, Ph.D.

University's Institute for Human Genetics have shown for the first time that the severity of an adult neurodegenerative disease is tied to how well the brain develops shortly after birth.

The researchers used a mouse model for spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA 1), a fatal neurodegenerative disease associated with a loss of coordination that affects such actions as walking, speaking, and swallowing. Currently, there is no treatment for the disease.


We remember Medical School alumni who have recently passed away and honor their contributions to improving health and advancing medicine.

Christopher Moertel, M.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D., are investigating a new therapy designed to destroy brain tumor cells. (Photo courtesy of Children's Cancer Research Fund)

University researchers found that children who received radiation treatment for cancer face a greater risk for tumors of the brain and spinal column later in life.

The study, published in the November 1, 2006, issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, showed that radiation treatment for childhood cancer was linked to a higher risk for later developing both malignant and benign brain tumors.

Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D.

The Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) received a $7.9 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) award that will open the center's powerful imaging technology to more University neuroscience researchers.

"This grant is a result of all our work on brain sciences at the CMRR," Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D., director of the CMRR and McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in the Medical School. "Now we will be able to expand this work even further."

Jay N. Cohn, M.D.

University of Minnesota cardiologist Jay N. Cohn, M.D., received the Heart Failure Society of America's first annual lifetime achievement award for his contributions to heart disease detection and prevention.

Professor in the Division of Cardiology and director of the Rasmussen Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at the Medical School, Cohn is internationally recognized for his contributions to the understanding of cardiovascular disease and for his leadership in designing and carrying out clinical trials to evaluate new interventions for heart failure.

Thumbnail image for Class of 2000 alumni Julie Anderson, M.D., Peter Lund, M.D., Shannon Parkos, M.D., and Eric Haug, M.D., share a smile. (Photo: Tim Rummelhoff)

We need your help! The Medical Alumni Society is looking for volunteers from each celebrating class to call their classmates and encourage them to attend their upcoming reunions.

Callers will be provided with a phone list, supporting materials, and updates on the progress of this year's reunion plans.

Phone calls from you to your classmates will generate more interest in Reunion Weekend than will communications from the alumni office. Plus, you'll get a chance to catch up with your fellow alumni in anticipation of the big celebration.

Twelve-year-old Anusha was cured of aplastic anemia.

The University's internationally acclaimed blood and marrow transplantation (BMT) program has established a research and clinical care partnership with Manipal Hospital in Bangalore, India—the first arrangement of its kind for the University's physician practice plan, University of Minnesota Physicians.

Led by Daniel Weisdorf, M.D., professor of medicine and chair of the University's adult BMT program, the partnership aims to increase scientific collaboration and training opportunities for students and physicians from Minnesota and India and to provide state-of-the art cancer care for patients in Bangalore.


A discovery by University researchers provides a target for developing new types of drugs to stop retroviruses, including HIV, from infecting cells and spreading through the body.

The research team, led by Nikunj Somia, Ph.D., assistant professor of genetics, cell biology, and development, identified a cell line that is resistant to three types of retroviruses, including human immunodeficiency virus type 1.


In the world of medicine—populated by bright, dedicated people—the bar for leadership is high. Yet every year a few students at the University of Minnesota Medical School exceed that bar, capturing the attention of their teachers, mentors, and peers.

These students have not only accumulated numerous academic achievements, honors, and degrees, but perhaps more important, they each possess that immeasurable extra something—a combination of characteristics and virtues that makes for the best doctors.


The news from poems—This fragment of a poem by William Carlos Williams would be a perfect medical school course title, says Mary Faith Marshall, Ph.D., director of the new Center for Medical Humanities and the Arts at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

That is to say, poetry may be less practical than the news, yet our spirits are diminished for want of it. Williams, who was a doctor by day and poet by night, understood the importance of ministering to both body and soul.

Thumbnail image for Neurosurgeon Stephen Haines, M.D., and radiation physicist Yoichi Watanabe, Ph.D., with the Gamma Knife

Anywhere else, Gavin Nieters's chances would have been slim to none. Born June 9, 2005, with a major malfunction in his tiny heart, Gavin needed highly specialized surgery. And the only place in the world it could be done was the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital, Fairview. When Gavin was four days old, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon John Foker, M.D., Ph.D., cut into his small chest and, in a 12-hour operation, corrected the deadly defect.

Gavin's lifesaving surgery might not have been possible if it hadn't been for an innovative partnership forged 10 years ago between the University of Minnesota, Fairview Health Services, and University of Minnesota Physicians. By combining a community health system with an academic health center and its faculty physicians, the partnership created an entity specialized enough to function at—and advance—the leading edge of medicine, yet sturdy enough to survive in a highly competitive health-care environment.


While we have made great strides in health, chronic diseases—such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes— remain the leading cause of death worldwide. In the United States, these diseases account for 7 of every 10 deaths and affect the quality of life of 90 million Americans. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic disease is responsible for 60 percent of all deaths worldwide, and 80 percent of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Although chronic diseases are among the most common and costly health problems, they are also among the most preventable. The major risk factors for chronic disease are an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and tobacco use.

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