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April 2007 Archives

Arthur J. Matas, M.D., director of the University’s kidney transplant program, hopes his long-term follow-up studies on organ donors will help others make informed decisions about organ donation.

When Mona Libin received a new kidney in August 2004, she also got a second chance at a normal life.

p>Before her kidney transplant at the University of Minnesota, Mona had been on dialysis—an often grueling process through which a machine performs the kidneys' normal function of cleansing the blood.

"If you know anything about dialysis, you know it's a terrible way to live," says her husband, Alvin Libin. "After the transplant, Mona was able to do the things she had done before. She was an avid golfer and loved gardening and traveling. Those are things she couldn't do on dialysis."

Ph.D. student Katie Murphy and researcher Scott Selleck, M.D., Ph.D., compare segments of chromosomes from families with autism to those of a control group.

At 18 months, Jimmy Reagan was a happy, healthy, affectionate toddler. Then something happened. By the time he turned 2, Jimmy was frail and strangely agitated. He quit speaking, and he cried all the time. His parents were frantic.

In 1996 Jimmy was diagnosed with autism, a disorder that involves impaired social interactions and language difficulties but also can include a range of other medical problems. In Jimmy's case, not only was his communication affected, he also had chronic ear infections, food allergies, gastrointestinal problems, and mouth pain.

John Kersey, M.D., and colleague Ashish Kumar, M.D., Ph.D., conduct research on an often fatal form of infant leukemia.

When asked to name Dr. John Kersey's single greatest quality, those who know him well list several: honesty, fairness, and a collaborative spirit.

"John's legendary skill is listening to what people are interested in and then pulling them together to work toward a common goal," says Tucker LeBien, Ph.D., deputy director of the University of Minnesota Cancer Center, who has worked with Kersey for 30 years. "I've never witnessed anyone who is as good at that as he is."

Twins pitchers Brad Radke (foreground) and Matt Garza signed baseballs for fans at the event’s VIP reception.

Baseball stars and ataxia supporters mingled at the second annual Diamond Awards, held on January 25, 2007. The event—which included a reception, silent auction, dinner, and awards ceremony—drew 620 attendees and raised $291,000 in net proceeds for the Bob Allison Ataxia Research Center. Recently retired Minnesota Twins pitcher Brad Radke received this year's Bob Allison Award, given to the Twins player who exhibits the most determination, hustle, tenacity, competitive spirit, and leadership.

Thumbnail image for Ataxia researcher Harry Orr, Ph.D., says partnerships through the new Institute for Translational Neuroscience will help bring researchers closer to finding a treatment for ataxia.

When Jim Schindler passed away last year, he left more than $1 million in his estate to the Bob Allison Ataxia Research Center at the University of Minnesota in memory of his old friend.

Schindler and Allison played minor league baseball together in the 1950s. They remained friends off the field for decades after that.

Schindler directed the money in his estate toward the creation of an endowed chair, which will be used to attract or keep top-notch ataxia researchers at the University. Thanks to Schindler's generosity, funding for the position—called the James Schindler and Bob Allison Ataxia Chair in Translational Research—is now at about $1.3 million. But $2 million is needed to realize the chair's full potential.

Char Martins, R.N., B.S.N. (foreground), and Alecia Nickell, P.T., M.Sc., review a patient’s chart.

Since becoming medical director of the University of Minnesota Ataxia Center last spring, Khalaf Bushara, M.D., has been motivated by two things: his vision for the future and the positive feedback from patients and their referring doctors.

"It's encouraging to know that we are headed in the right direction—that our efforts are making a difference in our patients' lives," says Bushara.

For more than fifteen years, the Ataxia Center has been providing specialized care for patients with ataxia and diseases of the cerebellum. Under Bushara's direction, the center aims to expand its services, while educating physicians and patients about ataxia and conducting research related to the disease.

Thumbnail image for An event in October honoring Gerald Hill, M.D., one of the Center of American Indian and Minority Health's first leaders, drew a grateful crowd of colleagues and former students. View a slideshow of event highlights.

"Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children." Ask members of Bright Start to describe their program and chances are you will hear this quote from the famous Lakota leader Sitting Bull. Bright Start, or Ohiyu lyojanjan in Lakota, is a partnership of the School of Public Health and the Lakota people of the Sioux Nation of the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. The two groups are working together on a school-based program to reduce obesity and diabetes in young children.

University of Minnesota ophthalmology residents and faculty work closely together. Here, resident Peter Mellema, M.D. (right), consults with attending physician Joseph Terry, M.D.

Motivated. Professional. Intelligent. Team players. These are the qualities that University of Minnesota ophthalmology residency program director Martha Wright, M.D., looks for in prospective residents.

"We want people whom you would want for your doctor," she says.

The University's ophthalmology residency program continues to attract a talented group of applicants. "There is stiff competition," says Wright, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Ophthalmology. "We get more than 200 applications for just four spots each year. Most of the people who apply are very bright."

Sunscreen and sunglasses help protect Sara and Riley Wheaton’s skin and eyes when they’re outside. Their parents, Michele Moylan and David Wheaton, are grateful for the information and empathetic care University experts have given them.

The morning after their son was born nine years ago, Michele Moylan and David Wheaton learned that little Riley had albinism.

It wasn't apparent to them right away. In fact, they had no idea Riley had albinism until their pediatrician came to the hospital to do a standard baby check the next day and noticed that Riley had white eyelashes and no pigment in his eyes.


Upgrades to an ophthalmology practice laboratory will have both personal and professional meaning to residents in the Department of Ophthalmology.

Over the last several months, the department has received donations in memory of David P. Pond, M.D., a first-year ophthalmology resident. At the time of his death last June, many friends and colleagues in the ophthalmic community expressed interest in contributing to a memorial fund for David. Department leaders have discussed a number of ways to honor his memory with his widow, Ausra Pond, M.D., who joined the department as a first-year resident last fall.

Thumbnail image for Arne Vainio, M.D., made a documentary film to show his middle-aged Native American male patients what to expect from disease screening tests, using himself as a sample patient. (Photo: Dan Schlies)

A two-year, $70,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation will help support a popular Medical School program that encourages American Indian students to enter health-care careers and continues to support them once they’re enrolled. The Center of American Indian and Minority Health (CAIMH), which has offices on the Duluth and Twin Cities campuses, is one of four Native American Centers of Excellence nationwide devoted to preparing American Indian physicians to address health disparities in American Indian communities. It lost 83 percent of its budget—more than $1 million—due to federal program cuts last fall.


This year’s Winter Ball, held February 9 at the Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis, drew a record attendance of 560, including medical students from the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses and their guests. Sponsored in part by the Minnesota Medical Foundation, the annual event included a formal dance, music by a variety band, and refreshments.


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 that will make him an expert on safe working conditions.


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

Angela Fryer (left) and Angela Voight celebrate their match results. Fryer will be entering Allina’s family medicine residency program, and Voight will join University of Minnesota’s family medicine residency program at St. John’s Hospital in Maplew

"I want to welcome you to medicine's March Madness," Medical School Dean Deborah Powell, M.D., told the fourth-year medical students and their families and friends gathered at the McNamara Alumni Center on March 15 for Match Day.

A rite of passage on every medical school campus, Match Day is when fourth-year medical students, some with families in tow, anxiously gather to simultaneously open small white envelopes whose contents reveal where they will complete their residency training.

Medical School alumnus and longtime faculty member B. J. Kennedy, M.D., is widely recognized as the father of medical oncology.

In the 1960s, cancer most often meant a dire prognosis. Cure rates for many cancers were in the single digits. But in the years that followed, a group of physicians and scientists was working to improve those numbers and prove that cancer didn't have to be a death sentence.

The University of Minnesota's B. J. Kennedy, M.D., was a leader in that charge. Kennedy believed that medical oncology was an essential subspecialty of internal medicine, and he tirelessly campaigned for its recognition as a subspecialty, separate from hematology. He believed oncology should encompass a continuum of care—from cancer prevention to detection, treatment, and palliative care.

Alli Ritts, a first-year medical student, says the cirriculum changes motivate her and her peers to become

For years, Medical School alumni have been giving back by supporting today's students through the Medical Student Scholarship Fund, the general scholarship fund held at the Minnesota Medical Foundation.

Now that support is having an even greater impact through the University-wide President's Scholarship Match. Thanks to the contributions of many alumni and friends, the Medical Student Scholarship Fund is now eligible for this program, through which the University matches the scholarship fund's "payout" —4.75 percent of the fund's market value that is paid out each year to fund scholarships that support promising medical students who demonstrate financial need.

A scholarship for medical students bears the names of University of Minnesota boosters Violet and alumnus Herman

Ninety-two percent of Medical School alumni are satisfied with how well the University of Minnesota prepared them to succeed in their careers, according to the University of Minnesota Connecting with Alumni survey. The survey, conducted last year by the University of Minnesota Foundation, asked more than 300,000 University of Minnesota alumni about their connections to their alma mater. It addressed such topics as career information, community involvement, and affinity with the University.The survey yielded 51,133 responses, of which about 3,000 were from alumni of the Medical School. Here are a few other things we learned about our Medical School alumni:


The University of Minnesota's Medical Alumni Society has selected six physicians to receive its three awards for 2007. Please join us in congratulating and thanking these hardworking doctors for their exceptional work in the service of the medical profession.

Kenya’s first three family medicine residents will graduate this year. Shown here with Dahlman (back row in green shirt) and others who helped to create the residency program, they are (front row, third, fourth, and fifth from left) Peter Mwaka, Patrick

Bruce Dahlman's first taste of international medicine, when he was a medical student in 1980, lingered, took hold, and eventually lured him back. Between his third and fourth years at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Dahlman visited several African countries to observe community health care there. Two things stuck with him long after he returned to the United States: the "breathtaking" scenery and the camaraderie of national and expatriate health-care workers serving together at a hospital in Zaire called Nyankunde.

Mark Schleiss, M.D.

A vaccine developed by University researchers and tested in animals offers promise for preventing a common cause of mental retardation in humans. The experimental vaccine protected the offspring of guinea pigs infected with cytomegalovirus (CMV), and the researchers hope to conduct clinical trials next year to test the vaccine in people.

CMV is the second-leading cause of mental retardation after Down syndrome. Transmitted from mother to fetus, the virus also is a leading cause of deafness in children and can play a role in cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, and other neurological problems. Up to 40,000 babies each year are born with CMV, and there is no treatment or vaccine licensed for its prevention.

Thumbnail image for Pacemaker inventor Earl Bakken receives an honorary medical degree from Medical School Dean Deborah Powell, M.D., as University President Robert Bruininks, Ph.D. looks on.

Barbara Elliott, Ph.D., a professor of family medicine at the Medical School-Duluth Campus, and Travis Thompson, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics, Twin Cities, were among five University staff and faculty members who in April received the University's prestigious Outstanding Community Service Award.

Established in 1999 by University President Robert Bruininks, Ph.D., the award honors members of the University community who have devoted their time and talents to making "substantial, enduring contributions to the community and to improving life and the well-being of society."


Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of cancer. While 90 percent of lung cancer patients are smokers, less than 20 percent of smokers get cancer. These estimates have led scientists to the theory that genes play an important role in lung cancer susceptibility. SPH professor Lisa Peterson is working to understand the link between DNA and cancer by studying two important tobacco carcinogens known as NNK and NNN. She and LiLi, a postdoctoral researcher, are conducting this work in a lab at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center.

Thumbnail image for Surgeon Bernhard Hering, M.D., is leading part of a national clinical trial aimed at improving long-term outcomes of islet-cell transplants.

A team of University researchers has found a stem cell in adult rat heart tissue that can make cardiac cells—offering hope that these cells could someday be used to treat heart injuries in people.

The researchers took tissue from rat hearts, added certain growth factors, and multiplied them in a dish. When the researchers injected the cells into rats with injured hearts, the cells repaired the damaged tissue.

Gwen Halaas, M.D.

Gwen Wagstrom Halaas, M.D., an assistant professor in the University's Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, will lead the Academic Health Center's new Center for Interprofessional Education.

In her new position, Halaas will guide the center as it formalizes opportunities for students to work across health disciplines. The center emerged as a priority from 2005-06 faculty task forces asked to recommend ways to help the University become one of the top three public research universities in the world.

A new children’s care facility on the University’s Riverside campus will enhance pediatric services and foster a family-centered environment.

Fairview Health Services plans to break ground later this year on a new home for the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital, Fairview, that will consolidate pediatric and maternal services on the Riverside campus. The new home will enhance clinical care and provide a family-centered environment for patients and their families.

Slated to open in 2010, the new 185,000-square-foot building will house pediatric services currently located on the University and Riverside campuses. It will include children's acute-care beds, medical/surgical units, blood and marrow transplant services, a children's emergency department, solid-organ transplant services, and family space.

Daniel J. Garry, M.D., Ph.D., has received numerous awards for his research on the molecular mechanisms of stem cell biology.

Distinguished University alumnus Daniel J. Garry, M.D., Ph.D., will hold the St. Jude Medical Cardiovascular Chair in Biomedical Engineering as the Medical School's new director of the Lillehei Heart Institute and of the Division of Cardiology in the Department of Medicine.

An accomplished investigator, Garry received his Ph.D. in cell biology and neuroanatomy from the University in 1990 and completed his internal medicine residency here in 1993. He will be leaving his current position as director of the University of Texas, Southwestern's Cardiovascular Regeneration and Stem Cell Center.

Thumbnail image for Linda McLoon, Ph.D., and Michael Lee, M.D., are experimenting with intranasal delivery of medication directly to an injured optic nerve.

University researchers have discovered a treatment for advanced adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a rare but devastating disorder that affects the nerves of young boys.

The disease is a progressive degenerative disorder that destroys myelin—the insulation that covers nerves. ALD breaks down myelin over time, causing loss of hearing, sight, mobility, and general nerve function.

Douglas Yee, M.D., a leading breast cancer researcher and clinician, has been at the University for eight years.

Medical oncologist Douglas Yee, M.D., a nationally recognized breast cancer researcher at the University, has been named director of the University's Cancer Center following a national search.

A professor in the Medical School Departments of Medicine and Pharmacology, Yee holds the Tickle Family Land-Grant Chair in Breast Cancer Research and leads the Cancer Center's Breast Cancer Research Program. His laboratory research on the growth regulation of tumors provided the foundation for the development of new anti-cancer drugs focused on growth factor receptors.

Josh Chapman’s RPAP project encouraging patients in Staples to complete their own health-care directives has spurred important conversations between patients and their doctors about end-of-life care.

Over the years, the University of Minnesota's Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP) has received accolades from numerous sources, including the Carnegie Foundation and the New England Journal of Medicine. And this year, the popular program has more participants than ever before. But like every good leader, RPAP director Gwen Halaas, M.D., raised the bar, demanding a bit more of the program and its students, knowing that both would benefit in the long run.

The state legislature launched RPAP in 1971 as a way to address the dire shortage of primary-care physicians in rural Minnesota. The idea was innovative yet simple: Third-year medical students would spend 36 weeks living, learning, and caring for patients in a rural Minnesota community. They'd work closely with rural physicians in a range of health-care settings, and if the program worked as planned (which it has), their experience would encourage them to return to a rural setting when they began their careers.

Slack has used a green fluorescent protein to mark specific genes in transgenic tadpoles and this transgenic “froglet.”

Jonathan Slack, Ph.D., is one of those self-described science addicts. A native Brit, he finished his first degree in biochemistry at Oxford and quickly became inspired by one of the world's oldest questions: How do embryos develop from eggs? His scientific curiosity led him to the rarefied field of developmental biology. And in 1986 he became the first to identify an inducing factor called the fibroblast growth factor in the frog embryo—a major discovery that was later shown to contribute to the formation of the head-to-tail pattern in all vertebrate embryos.

It was a breakthrough moment in the study of embryology, and Slack still looks back on it with awe. As the new director of the University of Minnesota's Stem Cell Institute, he's carried that sense of discovery across the Atlantic with him.

Gary Broberg received a new lung and a new life almost two years ago. Today he’s back to the things he enjoys—golfing, traveling, and spending time with his family.

At first Gary Broberg figured it was just a matter of being 49. As winter 2004 turned to spring, the Mendota Heights father of two found he didn't have the energy he once did. He got winded going up a flight of stairs. It seemed he was always out of breath. He felt odd ... and old.

By Memorial Day weekend Broberg decided he'd better see a doctor. He was advised to exercise and lose weight. He also was treated for various ailments, to no avail. Finally, in July he was referred to a pulmonologist.

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