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Giving to medicine and health at the University of Minnesota

January 2008 Archives

This White Castle restaurant, once located at 616 Washington Avenue S.E. in Minneapolis, may have been the source of hamburgers in McClendon’s experiment.

An unusual hamburger experiment is part of the University of Minnesota's dietary research annals

What happens when you take a healthy young man and feed him nothing but hamburgers and water for three months? It sounds like the genesis of an edgy film—and in fact Super Size Me, a 2004 documentary, followed one man's 30-day immersion in McDonald's cuisine—but a real-life version of this experiment took place at the University of Minnesota in the early 1930s.

Thumbnail image for Medical School associate deans Paul White, J.D., and Kathleen Watson, M.D., say new admissions standards reward such qualities as compassion, tolerance, and resilience. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Help us recognize exceptional accomplishments by those affiliated with the University of Minnesota Medical School. The Medical Alumni Society is now accepting nominations for three major awards, which will be presented September 26 during the 2008 Alumni Reunion Weekend:

Thumbnail image for Maureen Reed, M.D., Class of 1979, and Greg Vercellotti, M.D., share a smile.

Want to find a long-lost medical school classmate? Wondering what your fellow alumni are up to? A new alumni directory can help.

For the first time in 14 years, the University of Minnesota Medical School is producing a printed directory, which will include names and class years for all M.D. alumni in the school's history. The directory also will list medical specialties and contact information for alumni who provide that information.

Thumbnail image for Marshall Hertz, M.D. (second from left), Paul Quie, M.D. (fifth), and student Melanie Lo (sixth) were in the first University of Minnesota cohort to visit Israel through the Quie/Farbstein Health Care in Israel Program in 2008.

For 20 years the Phi Delta Epsilon Jewish Medical Fraternity Fund has provided scholarships to medical students at the University of Minnesota. Now three Medical School alumni and former members of the fraternity—James Gaviser, M.D. '68, Mace Goldfarb, M.D. '60, and Paul Schanfield, M.D. '72—are hoping to boost support for the fund and make travel to Israel possible for students for part of their medical training.

Ardys Howard and Robert B. Howard, M.D., Class of 1944, catch up with friends at the Half Century Club Luncheon.

Nearly 200 alumni reconnected with their classmates during Alumni Reunion Weekend on September 28-29, 2007. A total of 359 alumni and guests attended the weekend's festivities.

To learn about the latest medical technologies, alumni toured the University's new Simulation Center, where they were introduced to two high-fidelity patient simulators, SimMan and StanMan. They also visited the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, where leading-edge imaging research is conducted. At the Alumni Celebration Banquet Friday evening, they honored six alumni for their outstanding contributions to the Medical School and the medical profession.


Last fall's Twin Cities Marathon was a record-setter: It was the hottest race in the event's 26-year history.

The heat—74 degrees with 87 percent relative humidity at the race's 8 a.m. start—contributed to several other records as well, says William (Bill) O. Roberts, M.D., M.S., a Medical School alumnus (Class of '78) and the marathon's medical director.

Thumbnail image for Bruce Blazar, M.D.

Four University of Minnesota researchers last fall received the Academic Health Center's highest recognition of excellence—induction into the Academy of Excellence in Health Research.

Bruce Blazar, M.D., Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., Eric Newman, Ph.D., and Mary Story, Ph.D., R.D., were selected for sustained health-related research of sufficient renown to enhance the scholarly reputation of the University. They join 14 others who have been inducted into the academy since its inception in 2003.

Thumbnail image for Deborah E. Powell, M.D., dean, University of Minnesota Medical School

The Deborah E. Powell Center for Women's Health has been awarded a $2.2 million grant over the next five years to promote research that will benefit the health of women in Minnesota and across the nation.

The grant, from the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women's Health, will fund the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH) program.

Ashok Saluja, Ph.D.

A discovery by University of Minnesota cancer researchers may help stop the growth and spread of pancreatic cancer in patients. The research team found that a natural compound called triptolide can kill pancreatic cancer cells.

The laboratory study, led by Ashok Saluja, Ph.D., vice chair for research in the Department of Surgery, was the first to examine the ability of triptolide, which has been used as a natural medicine in China for hundreds of years, to induce pancreatic cancer cell death.


The University of Minnesota has been named a lead study center in the National Children's Study, which will assess the effects of environmental and genetic factors on health in the United States. Along with that designation will come $14 million over five years to support the research.

The study, a collaboration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is the largest and most comprehensive study of child and human health in the nation's history.

Aaron Friedman, M.D.

A noted pediatric nephrologist and award-winning medical educator has been chosen to lead the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. Aaron Friedman, M.D., will also serve as pediatrician-in-chief of the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital, Fairview.

Friedman comes to the University from Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School in Rhode Island, where he was head of the Department of Pediatrics and medical director for the Hasbro Children's Hospital.

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.

The University of Minnesota Medical School in December presented Earl Bakken, inventor of the first battery-powered, wearable pacemaker and cofounder of Medtronic, Inc., with its first-ever honorary M.D. degree.

Medical School Dean Deborah Powell, M.D., presented Bakken with the award during a daylong scientific symposium celebrating the 50th anniversary of the invention of the pacemaker.

Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D.

University professor Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D., a pioneer in using ultrahigh magnetic fields to map areas of the brain, has been inducted into the prestigious Institute of Medicine.

Ugurbil, a professor in the departments of neurosciences, radiology, and medicine and director of the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) at the Medical School, was one of 65 new members inducted in October.

Research coordinator Tiffany Cragin and Mustafa al'Absi, Ph.D., discuss

The University of Minnesota Medical School—Duluth Campus has hired Mustafa al'Absi, Ph.D., as director of a new research institute that will foster collaboration among researchers from multiple biomedical and clinical disciplines at the University and at community health agencies.

"The overarching goal of the Duluth Medical Research Institute is to develop groundbreaking programs that can translate biomedical research discoveries into important clinical applications," says al'Absi, who is nationally known for his research on the links between stress, addiction, and pain.

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.

Colleagues, friends, and former patients honored transplant surgeon John S. Najarian, M.D., in November by establishing an endowed chair in his name. Najarian led the Department of Surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School from 1970 to 1995 and established the program as a world leader in transplantation.

The John S. Najarian, M.D., Surgical Chair in Clinical Transplantation will enable the Department of Surgery to support the research and clinical pursuits of a full-time faculty member of international stature in transplantation.

Using his Fisch award, medical student Justin Finch photographed teens living on the streets in Camden, Maine.

The Fisch Art of Medicine Student Awards, which allow students to nurture their creative sides by taking clasentors, or simply focusing on an artistic pursuit, are meant to enhance the lifelong connectises, working with mons between the art and science of medicine.

University pediatrics professor emeritus Robert O. Fisch, M.D., a Holocaust survivor who has shared his experiences through paintings and books, established and endowed the program.

Cancer survivor Rosie Jones and her doctor, Brenda Weigel, M.D. (Photo courtesy of Children's Cancer Research Fund)

In the world's first clinical trial of its kind, University of Minnesota researchers are testing an innovative way to reduce complications and improve survival rates in patients who undergo blood and marrow transplants.

The research team hopes to determine the optimal dose and safety of T regulatory cells (T-regs) to reduce the risk of immune reaction in transplant patients who have leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, or other blood and marrow disorders.


Growing numbers of women in the United States are choosing to have both breasts removed when cancer is detected in one breast, but in many cases, a double mastectomy is unnecessary, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center.

Denis Clohisy, M.D.

After an extensive nationwide search, the University of Minnesota Medical School named surgeon Denis Clohisy, M.D., head of its Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, effective November 1, 2007.

A member of the Medical School faculty since 1991, Clohisy is nationally recognized for his work with musculoskeletal tumors. His main areas of interest include the development of experimental models of breast cancer, the discovery of new bone cancer therapies, and the study of the mechanisms that lead to bone cancer pain.

Third-year pediatric resident John Anderson, M.D. (left), discusses a patient’s chart with John Andrews, M.D., director of the University’s pediatric residency program. The program has included an adolescent health component since 1988.

If you are reading this page, you have lived it: The hormone-driven emotional highs and lows. The risk and resilience. The vulnerability and invincibility. The rite of passage that Carol Burnett called "one big walking pimple."

It's adolescence, and it's no joke. In 2003, motor vehicle accidents, homicide, and suicide were the three leading causes of death among individuals aged 10 to 24—or 57 percent of all deaths in that age group, according to the National Adolescent Health Information Center. One in five 12th graders reported using cigarettes or taking drugs, and one in four said they were binge drinking. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the teen birthrate has increased for the first time since 1991.

Those who died homeless in Minnesota last year were remembered during a silent vigil and march December 20 in downtown Minneapolis. Photos: Stephen Geffre

It's a Monday evening, and the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic is busy as usual. The clinic, which opened its doors in 2003, is housed in the basement of Oliver Presbyterian Church, located in one of Minneapolis's poorest neighborhoods. One night a week it offers health care at reduced or no charge to uninsured patients, a significant number of them homeless. But there's no feeling of deprivation here. A pair of Native American toddlers races down the brightly lit halls calling and laughing. Meanwhile, in a room that during the day serves as a preschool nursery, a lively group of University of Minnesota students chat as they prepare to see patients.


To the ancients, it was a sign of connection with the spirit world. To Napoleon, Handel, Kierkegaard, Socrates, and Dostoevsky, it was an unwelcome intruder, bursting unannounced into their brains at unexpected and unexplained times. To 50 million people today, it's a disruptive disease that injects their lives with uncertainty and stigma.

To three new faculty members at the University of Minnesota, epilepsy is a problem they aim to solve. Bolstering the U's growing emphasis on the brain, Aviva Abosch, M.D., Ph.D.; Thomas Henry, M.D.; and Steven Rothman, M.D., are exploring a variety of innovative approaches to treating and curing the disorder.

Ramachandra Tummala, M.D., holds the Harry A. Kaplan Professorship, established by Kaplan’s close friend Julia Neubart.

The story of how Julia Neubart, a 95-year-old New Yorker who has never set foot in Minnesota, came to give half a million dollars to the University of Minnesota Department of Neurosurgery sounds like something from a novel. Miss Neubart, as she was called throughout her career, worked for nearly 40 years with Harry A. Kaplan, M.D., a neurosurgeon who performed pioneering work in stroke, head trauma, and brain anatomy. Neubart helped Kaplan prepare dozens of papers, three books, and nine book chapters during his career at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn (part of the State University of New York system) and later at the New Jersey Medical School.


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

At the TeenLife Center–Wellness Center, physician assistant Caroline Woods (right) explains to patient Samantha Morgan how pain and trauma can cause elbow pain.

Teenagers who have children often face limited prospects. About 75 percent of them drop out of high school. Some 25 percent go on to have more children while still in their teens. Long-term, teen motherhood is associated with fewer employment opportunities, lower wages, and a higher need for public assistance.

Stephanie Walters, M.D., a second-year fellow in the AHPRT program, is thrilled to train with other interdisciplinary fellows in a field that gives equal value to advocacy, teaching, clinical time, and research. Photo: Scott Streble

When Stephanie Walters, M.D., finished her family medicine residency in 2006, she knew she wanted to make a difference in the lives of adolescents but wondered how she could have a bigger impact.


As a practicing infectious disease specialist in the University of Minnesota's Department of Pediatrics, Mark Robien is familiar with the importance of giving kids an annual influenza vaccination. Now with a grant from the Minnesota Vikings, the epidemiology student is launching a three-year campaign aimed at vaccinating children. Robien, along with his colleague Patricia Ferrieri, is focusing on two at-risk populations. The first are Twin Cities children from families who often face barriers to health care. The second are households undergoing a bone marrow transplant or other long-term treatments at the University.


Women with diabetes are 50 percent more likely to suffer from colorectal cancer than those who do not have the metabolic disorder, according to a study by School of Public Health researchers. "Colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes share a number of common factors, including obesity, so it is interesting to see the direct line between these two conditions," says lead investigator and SPH assistant professor Andrew Flood. The researchers followed 45,000 women with no history of colorectal cancer or diabetes from 1987 to 1989 and from 1995 to 1998 to examine the association between the two conditions.


In the last 18 months, the University of Minnesota Medical School has hired nationally recognized leaders in surgery, orthopaedic surgery, otolaryngology, cardiology, stem cell research, pediatrics, pediatric neurology, and other specialties. These individuals join the team of talented physician educators, scientists, and clinicians who direct the Medical School’s research institutes, departments, and divisions.

The painting Heal by Ta-coumba Aiken will be a highlight of WineFest’s live auction.

Don't miss this premier wine charity event that will bring together community leaders, medical professionals, wine lovers, advocates for children's health, and honorary winemasters from Australia for a two-day celebration to raise money for leading-edge research in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota.

Guests will enjoy exquisite wines, gourmet menus, and enticing auctions while supporting groundbreaking medical discoveries that help children all over the world. Hosted by the University Pediatrics Foundation (UPF), an affiliate of the Minnesota Medical Foundation, the festivities will take place May 9 and 10 at the Depot in downtown Minneapolis.

A bedside console in the Adopt A Rooms, designed by Perkins + Will, gives children control of the lighting and color of their rooms, while the larger room size gives families more space.

Brian Schepperle and David Millington have spent a lot of time in hospitals.

Schepperle's daughter, Katelyn Elizabeth, was in and out of the hospital many times during her 10-year battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer, before she died at age 11.

Millington's wife, Dana, once spent 63 consecutive days in the hospital with their daughter, Madison Claire, who had spinal muscular atrophy. The degenerative disease attacks nerve cells in the spinal cord and took Madison's life when she was 2.

The recently opened Hope Lodge, at University and 25th Avenues in Minneapolis, provides comfortable, convenient lodging for patients who travel to the Twin Cities for cancer treatment. The facility will hold an open house on April 7.

"If I were a guest, this is where you'd find me," says Mary Wiles, pointing to a cozy nook furnished with overstuffed chairs facing a stone fireplace. This inviting space is one of several created to give a sense of home to the recently opened Richard M. Schulze Family American Cancer Society Hope Lodge, located near the University of Minnesota.

"We want it to be a home away from home," says Wiles, manager of the 40-room facility, which offers free lodging to out-of-town adult cancer patients and their caregivers. Besides guest rooms, Hope Lodge boasts six fully equipped kitchens, a large dining area, TV lounges and sitting rooms, a library, fitness and meditation rooms, an outdoor patio, computers with Internet access, and laundry facilities.

Robert Veninga, Ph.D., and Karen Veninga, M.P.H.

Whether it's honoring a dedicated educator, "paying it forward," or simply supporting a longtime interest, donors to the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health (SPH) have many reasons for giving to student scholarships.

And in the last fiscal year, SPH Dean John R. Finnegan Jr., Ph.D., has been especially impressed by the outpouring of philanthropic support.


Richard Carmona, 17th surgeon general of the United States (2002-2006), will deliver the keynote address for the first-ever School of Public Health Alumni and Friends Scholarship Gala on April 10. Carmona is a distinguished professor of the Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona. He is also president of the Canyon Ranch Institute and chairman of Canyon Ranch, an award-winning facility that promotes healthy living. All SPH alumni are invited to the gala and to two other reunion-themed events scheduled for the same day.


More and more women who have been diagnosed with cancer in one breast are choosing to have a double mastectomy, even though statistically the risk of cancer developing in the second breast is less than 1 percent. This trend was found by a University of Minnesota team in the first study of double-mastectomy use at a national level. The researchers found that from 1998 to 2003 double mastectomies increased from 4.2 percent to 11 percent. Women younger than 40 were much more likely to choose the more aggressive approach.


Improved screening and treatment means more and more cancer survivors are returning to the work force. Despite this trend, little is known about what helps these employees return to work successfully. SPH assistant professor Nancy Nachreiner is combining her expertise in occupational health and interest in cancer survivorship to investigate the factors associated with a positive return-to-work experience. She recently led a pilot study in which women ages 31-54 who had been diagnosed and treated for cancer in the previous year participated in a focus group.


The second meeting of the Minnesota Taconite Worker Lung Health Partnership, led by SPH Dean John Finnegan and representing organizations with an interest in mine worker health, took place in December in Eveleth, Minn. The partnership was formed to study whether particles generated by taconite mining are causing lung disease on Minnesota's Iron Range. Finnegan and Jeffrey Mandel, SPH environmental health sciences associate professor and lead researcher, updated partners on the project. They were joined by colleagues from the University of Minnesota-Duluth's Natural Resources Research Institute, who will study the geology of the Iron Range.


University of Minnesota researchers are launching research aimed at improving treatment for a deadly form of liver cancer found in people who have developed cirrhosis. Treating this type of cancer, known as hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), is difficult because surgically cutting out the cancer can destroy an already poorly functioning liver.


It may not be inhaled into the lungs, but smokeless tobacco exposes users to some of the same potent carcinogens as cigarettes. The discovery comes from the University of Minnesota Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center (TTURC). TTURC researchers compared the urine of 182 oral snuff users with 420 cigarette smokers. They found that snuff users were exposed to higher levels of NNK, a carcinogen known to produce lung and pancreatic cancer. Stephen Hecht of the University of Minnesota Cancer Center led the research.


Informatics is a scientific field that, simply put, uses information technology to convert data to knowledge so people can make sense of it. It's a big, multidisciplinary field that is data focused and computationally intensive. And it's a field that will be changing the face of public health. "Informatics allows us to process gigantic amounts of information to get insights in ways we never thought we could," says School of Public Health Dean John Finnegan. "The potential of informatics for public health is amazing to me."

Colby Beaulieu

What does it take to stop an epileptic seizure? For Colby Beaulieu, it’s taken the best that modern medicine has to offer, along with a doctor who just won’t quit. Colby, a fun-loving first-grader, was born May 30, 2001, with blond hair, bright blue eyes, and a malfunctioning tumor-suppressor gene. As a result, his brain is riddled with benign tumors—53 of them. His resourceful nervous system has learned to live with most of them. But the tumors along one side of his brain irritate critical tissue, causing seizures when he’s asleep.

Thumbnail image for Neurosurgeon Aviva Abosch, M.D., Ph.D., works to improve quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease. (Photo: Bill Alkofer)

It was the perfect combination: a young physician interested in the brain and growing federal interest in funding epilepsy research. In the 1970s brain research in the United States—and in the laboratory of Ilo Leppik, M.D.—began to focus on the disorder. For the past 30 years, Leppik, a neurologist, clinical professor, and head of the College of Pharmacy’s Epilepsy Research and Education Program at the University of Minnesota, has been working to develop new drugs to treat epilepsy. He’s had a hand in the development of all eight of the experimental drugs that have been approved and marketed in the past decade.

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