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April 2008 Archives


The condition of American medical education at the turn of the 20th century would shock all but the medical historian. Only a handful of the 155 entities identified as medical schools in the United States offered scientifically based training, hands-on laboratory experience, or practical clinical rotations.

Glen D. Nelson, M.D.

Glen D. Nelson, M.D., Medical School Class of 1963, has been selected to receive the University of Minnesota's Outstanding Achievement Award.

This award is the University's highest alumni honor, recognizing those who have earned unusual distinction in their chosen professions or in public service and have demonstrated outstanding achievement and leadership on a community, state, national, or international level.

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)

The University of Minnesota Medical Alumni Society has selected five exceptional physicians to receive its three awards for 2008. Please join us in congratulating and thanking these deserving doctors for their work in the service of the medical profession.

Thumbnail image for Oncologist Tufia Haddad, M.D., says real-time MRI monitoring and data analysis through the I-SPY2 clinical trial will help to determine which new drugs are most beneficial for breast cancer patients. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

The University's School of Public Health (SPH) has taken the lead role in a research initiative examining the relationship between a rare form of cancer and taconite mining in northern Minnesota.

The SPH is partnering with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), which turned over control of the research in June when it came under fire for suppressing information about the number of deaths from mesothelioma among miners on the Iron Range. At least 58 former miners have died of mesothelioma, a cancer that has been strongly linked to asbestos exposure.

Medical School alumna Sanne Magnan, M.D., Ph.D., was appointed commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health in September.

As the recently appointed Minnesota commissioner of health, Sanne Magnan, M.D., Ph.D., has an ambitious to-do list: prevent disease, advance health-care reform, and ensure that the 5 million-plus people living in Minnesota are protected from public health threats.

Magnan, a 1983 Medical School alumna, says she's up for the challenge. "Every job I've ever had has prepared me for this one, and this job is every job I've ever had rolled into one," she says.

Martin J. Stillman, M.D., J.D., F.C.L.M.

On behalf of the Medical Alumni Society, I congratulate the Medical School's newest 209 alumni, who received their medical degrees on May 2. Naturally, this class is full of bright, talented doctors, and we're proud to have them as colleagues.

Over the past few years, members of this class and those behind them have become involved with our Medical Alumni Society board. Their fresh ideas and contributions have been wonderful assets as we plan activities to connect alumni and students. Here are some recent highlights of our collaboration:

Thumbnail image for Minimally invasive surgery is performed using the da Vinci® robotic surgical system.

The University of Minnesota Medical School will establish the first Surgical Simulation Fellowship in the country using a $180,000 grant from Gyrus ACMI, a medical device company that specializes in minimally invasive surgery.

The fellowship, which begins on July 1, will help advance the international development, evaluation, and delivery of techniques enhanced by surgical simulation instruments. The grant provides funding for three one-year fellowships.

Using a process called whole-organ decellularization, a team led by Doris Taylor, Ph.D., created two beating animal hearts in the laboratory.

By using a process called whole-organ decellularization, scientists at the University's Center for Cardiovascular Repair grew functioning heart tissue by taking dead rat and pig hearts and reseeding them with a mixture of live cells.

The researchers hope that this process can be used someday to make new donor organs for humans, says principal investigator Doris A. Taylor, Ph.D., a professor of medicine and physiology at the University.

Roberta Sonnino, M.D.

Lindsey C. Henson, M.D., Ph.D., joined the Medical School in April as vice dean for education, a new position. In this role, Henson will help implement MED 2010, the Medical School initiative to transform medical education by making it more flexible and responsive to individual learners' needs.

Henson comes to Minnesota from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, where she was professor and chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine.


Thanks to bipartisan support from the state legislature and Governor Tim Pawlenty, the University of Minnesota will construct four state-of-the-art research buildings as part of the Minnesota Biomedical Research Program. The five-year project, backed by university-sold bonds, will cost $292 million. The state will help repay 75 percent of those bonds, about $219 million. The remainder will come from philanthropy and other sources.

Cesar Ercole, M.D., matched in urology at the Unviersity of South Florida College of Medicine-Tampa. “It’s kind of genetic,” he says of his specialty choice. Ercole’s father and two uncles practice urology, and an older sister is currently in a ur

Emotions—from anxiety to joy to relief—ran high at this year's Match Day ceremony. The 202 students from the Medical School's Class of 2008 who matched learned on March 20 where they'd spend the next several years of their medical training.

"On behalf of all of us in the Medical School, we're really excited for you," Medical School Dean Deborah Powell, M.D., told the students at the McNamara Alumni Center. "You are going to do us proud.... [When you're through], come home ... come back here to practice."

Thumbnail image for 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.

Anonymous donors have made a $1 million gift to the new Minnesota's Future Doctors program, a collaboration of the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic medical schools.

The program aims to equip high-potential minority, rural, and economically disadvantaged students with the skills necessary to become successful undergraduate students, making them strong applicants for medical school.

Minnesota Masonic Charities president and CEO Eric Neetenbeek and Masonic Cancer Center director Douglas Yee, M.D., were in high spirits at the April 10 press conference announcing the gift.

The University of Minnesota has received its largest gift ever—$65 million from Minnesota Masonic Charities. The donation will be made over 15 years to support research at the University's Cancer Center.

It will allow physicians and scientists to accelerate their research and its translation to better cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Investigators also will be able to expand their studies of cancer survivorship.


Though it was nearly 40 years ago, Shelley (not her real name) vividly remembers her first experience with shoplifting. The troubled then 16-year-old happened to like what she stole—a stylish maroon sweater—but it was the act of shoplifting itself that electrified her.

"My whole nervous system was excited," Shelley recalls. "It was like coming close to the fire and then escaping the danger; the relief and gratification were overwhelming."


University of Minnesota scientists have ushered in the new millennium with cardiovascular breakthroughs that could be mistaken for science fiction. One research team created a beating heart in the laboratory by removing all the cells from a dead rat heart and then seeding the remaining scaffolding with live, immature heart cells. Across campus, surgeons are using tremor-free robotic arms to perform coronary artery bypass surgery, eliminating the need for an open-chest procedure; and preventive cardiologists are detecting cardiovascular disease in its earliest, still silent forms. Just as renowned University heart surgeon C. Walton Lillehei, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues were at the vanguard of their field more than half a century ago, a new cadre of University clinicians and scientists is forging cardiovascular medicine's new future.

Jeffrey Miller, M.D., began testing the application of natural killer cells to treat leukemia eight years ago. Today he’s developing protocols for using those cells to treat other types of cancer as well.

Packed into the hollows of your bones, pulsing through your arteries and veins, are millions of immature cells that play a very big role in keeping you alive.

Known as hematopoietic stem cells, or HSCs, these cells produce the blood cells that carry oxygen, keep you from bleeding to death, and defend you against incursions by bacteria, viruses, and other adversaries. HSCs are also the stars of blood and marrow transplantation (BMT), a lifesaving therapy that has given thousands of children and adults a new source of blood cells.


In fiscal year 2007, nearly one-third of all health-related gifts to the University of Minnesota through the Minnesota Medical Foundation were designated for research.

Former Twins player Rod Carew poses for a photo with event attendee Joe Goodwin.

About 500 people attended the third annual Diamond Awards on January 24‚ helping to raise more than $520‚000 for research and care focused on ataxia‚ muscular dystrophy‚ Parkinson's‚ and ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) at the University of Minnesota. Event guests mingled with Minnesota baseball greats‚ bid on baseball memorabilia at a silent auction‚ and attended a televised awards dinner honoring Minnesota Twins players.

A research team led by Timothy Ebner, M.D., Ph.D., has found a possible cause of the temporary symptoms associated with episodic ataxia type 2.

When University of Minnesota basic neuroscientist Timothy Ebner, M.D., Ph.D., began researching how episodic ataxia changes brain cells‚ the results were illuminating.

Ebner‚ head of the University's Department of Neuroscience and holder of the Visscher Chair in Physiology‚ received a one-year‚ $75‚000 grant from the Bob Allison Ataxia Research Center (BAARC) to use a technology called optical imaging to learn more about why episodic ataxia creates temporary bouts of debilitating symptoms.

Conquering ataxia is a family affair for the Frigstads: (from left) Jack, Todd, Julia, Karen, and Anna.

If you would have asked her a decade ago‚ Karen Frigstad never would have predicted that hundreds of people would know her name and her story.

But since she was diagnosed with Friedreich's ataxia in 1999‚ Frigstad has become a familiar face—and an inspiration—to many others with the disease and their families.

JoAnn and Jim Ciecierski

When JoAnn Ciecierski was teaching doctors about her own disease‚ she and her husband‚ Jim‚ realized that ataxia awareness was a big problem.

Of course‚ JoAnn‚ who has the hereditary spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA-1)‚ had done a lot of research—her grandfather‚ father‚ aunt‚ and cousin also had ataxia. Jim felt compelled to do something to get the word out about this neurodegenerative disease. "I didn't know how I was going to do it‚ but I had to do something‚" he says.

Thumbnail image for Deborah Powell, M.D.

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.

Thumbnail image for Gunda Georg, Ph.D., will lead the Department of Medicinal Chemistry in the College of Pharmacy.

The University of Minnesota’s College of Pharmacy was ranked third in the nation among pharmacy programs by U.S. News and World Report—a move up from fourth place last year. The rankings are based on the results of peer assessment surveys sent to pharmacy college and school leaders across the country.


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


Brian and Kristen Schepperle's daughter Katelyn Elizabeth was in and out of the hospital numerous times during her 10-year battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia‚ a type of blood cancer.

"The doctors said they were going to do everything they could medically‚ but it was our job to keep her spirits up‚" says Brian.

Melissa Groza believes the University is the best place for her son, Brent

Brent Groza's family has had plenty of experience with hospitals since the bright-eyed toddler was born 18 months ago. But it wasn't until they accidentally ended up at the University of Minnesota in August that they finally felt they were where they needed to be.

Brent was born with immune dysregulation polyendocrinopathy enteropathy X-linked syndrome‚ or IPEX for short. Children with this syndrome—and there are only a few of them in the world—have a genetic alteration that causes their immune system to attack the body's own tissues and organs. Untreated‚ their tiny bodies can basically self-destruct.

Aaron Friedman, M.D.

A noted pediatric nephrologist and awardwinning 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.

Third-year resident John Anderson, M.D. (left), is training in the University’s pediatric residency program, one of the most sought-after in the country, which is led by John Andrews, M.D.

Fourth-year medical student Johannah Krueger has enjoyed working with children almost as long as she can remember. Throughout high school and college she found herself fascinated by how they grow and discover their world.

That fascination eventually led her to the University of Minnesota Medical School‚ where her experiences helped solidify her interest in a career as a pediatrician.

Thumbnail image for University researchers have achieved more than 90 percent accuracy using a noninvasive technology called magnetoencephalography to differentiate people with post-traumatic stress disorder from control subjects. (Photo: Image courtesy o

Thanks to a four-year, $2.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, University of Minnesota researchers have launched a multidisciplinary effort to examine the role impulsivity plays in addiction. Research at the new Center for the Study of Impulsivity in Addiction will focus on drug abuse and binge-eating disorder—addictions that share behavioral and neurobiological traits, says center director Kelvin O. Lim, M.D., professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Psychiatry.

The Ramseys: Gregory, Darren, Christopher, and Mary.

It might seem surprising that a family from southern California with no ties to Minnesota would choose to spend the winter here. But Gregory Ramsey and his family did just that. In February 2007, 10-year-old Gregory was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Fanconi anemia in which the bone marrow stops making blood cells. Because of the high risk of infection and the chance he could develop leukemia, Gregory needed a bone marrow transplant as quickly as possible. When his parents heard that the University of Minnesota was “the place to be” for patients with a rare genetic disease like Fanconi anemia, they headed north in September.


Teenagers who regularly eat breakfast tend to weigh less, exercise more, and eat a more healthful diet than their breakfast-skipping peers, finds new research from the School of Public Health. The study, part of Project EAT (Eating Among Teens), involved more than 2,200 Twin Cities adolescents who were tracked for five years. Findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.


How the SPH became one of the most productive schools of public health in the country—and why it matters to you. The University of Minnesota School of Public Health broke one of its own records in 2007. It rose to third place among all schools of public health in National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants, behind only Johns Hopkins and Harvard. The SPH's annual sponsored project productivity is now $92 million. Not bad for a school that has only about 25 to 50 percent of the faculty complement respectively of the top two schools.

At the Visual Rehabilitation Center, occupational therapist Mary Ruff helps people adapt to their reduced vision.

Limited peripheral vision, which often occurs in people with glaucoma, makes it difficult to see someone approaching from the side or objects such as keys on a table. But often before noticing a difference in their eyesight, people with reduced peripheral vision may begin to feel anxious in unfamiliar places, seem to be misplacing things more frequently, and feel more forgetful in general.

Experts at the Visual Rehabilitation Center at the University of Minnesota can help people understand why these changes may be happening and offer devices and strategies for coping with them. "Through understanding comes insight and the ability to compensate," says Mary Ruff, an occupational therapist at the center.

Ophthalmologist Erick Bothun, M.D., examines pediatric glaucoma patient Benjamin Kempf’s eyes.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota are working to improve that statistic.

The University's Department of Ophthalmology has a large team of specialists who treat people with glaucoma and conduct research involving the many types of glaucoma. Associate professor Martha Wright, M.D., is director of the department's glaucoma service.Wright works with professor Alana Grajewski, M.D., and associate professor Mary Lawrence, M.D., M.P.H., to diagnose and manage glaucoma in adults. Many of the people they treat need advanced subspecialty care because their previous treatments have failed.

Ruth Hanold

Ruth Hanold has many reasons for supporting eye research at the University of Minnesota. She has had macular degeneration in both eyes for a decade and more recently was diagnosed with glaucoma and cataracts. The active 93-year-old moved to a retirement community four years ago when her eyesight became so poor that she could no longer drive.

But with some adaptive tools, Hanold still does many of the things she used to do—it just takes longer now, she says.

Thumbnail image for Patient Vera Velasquez listens to Martha Wright, M.D., explain glaucoma surgery using a model of the eye.

Glaucoma is a group of diseases affecting the eye's optic nerve, a cable that transmits visual information from the eye to the brain.

Glaucoma is caused by increased pressure inside the eye that damages the optic nerve, leading to vision loss and blindness.

Mildred Giordano

It was 40 years ago when Mildred Giordano first made the 320-mile drive from her home in South Dakota to the University of Minnesota. She repeated the trip countless times over the years, by car and by plane, seeking treatment at the University's Department of Ophthalmology for her deteriorating vision.

Giordano had been plagued by cold sores, an affliction caused by the herpes simplex virus, since her high school days. In rare instances, the herpes simplex virus also can attack the eyes and lead to corneal infection, which can result in scarring and loss of vision—even blindness in some cases.

Todd Klesert, M.D., Ph.D., says the department’s new technology will help physicians better understand and treat eye conditions.

The Department of Ophthalmology recently acquired two new pieces of equipment. Both are state-of-the-art‚ providing information that is light years beyond what previous tools could provide.

The confocal microscope and the Spectralis™ HRA+OCT‚ also known as the Heidelberg Spectralis‚ are currently being used in only a few ophthalmology centers around the country‚ and the University of Minnesota is one of them.


Malaria is the leading cause of death for children in sub- Saharan Africa. But for children who survive the disease, it can be the cause of devastating brain injury. While close to an estimated one-quarter of young malaria survivors develop cognitive deficits, the factors that lead to this damage are not well understood. University of Minnesota researchers are teaming up with investigators at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda to better understand cerebral malaria, a type of malaria in which red blood cells obstruct blood vessels in the brain.

Then–Grand Master of the Minnesota Masons Raymond Christensen, M.D., celebrated the historic gift with Minnesota Medical Foundation president and CEO Becky Malkerson.

When the Minnesota Masons made their first gift to the University of Minnesota in 1955, cancer was a death sentence. So to provide a place for people with cancer to receive palliative care, the Masons gave $1 million to build the Masonic Memorial Hospital.

Now, five decades later, new therapies are constantly being developed at the University to help people live with cancer. The Masons have had a major role in this success, contributing millions more over the years to build state-of-the-art facilities and fund leading-edge research and care at the University.

The late Mary LaDue and Max Pickworth (Medical School Class of 1930) met at a University dance and later married. Today, an estate gift Mary established in their names helps to fund two new endowed chairs in the Medical School.

Born in 1907 in Browns Valley, Minnesota, near the South Dakota border, Mary LaDue was ahead of her time. An independent-minded young woman, she graduated from high school at age 15 and completed her degree at the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts in three years. Her father encouraged the teenager to learn about financial matters and gave her $2,000 to invest—a skill she honed over her lifetime and ultimately used to benefit others.

University of Minnesota undergraduate student Wanda Vue says the Minnesota’s Future Doctors program provides a straight path to her goals.

Growing up in a household of modest means, Clemon Dabney had always wanted to be a role model for his siblings. Now he's preparing to become a doctor, showing his brothers and sisters that they all can make a difference in the world.

Georgette McCauley's family fled war-torn Liberia in 2001. Today McCauley is a college student studying to become a doctor so she can help other refugees become more comfortable with Western medicine.

Grateful for the pediatric heart surgery that has allowed their son Bob Calmenson to lead a normal life, Ben and Vivian Calmenson created a fund for pediatric cardiology research at the University of Minnesota 10 years ago, when Bob turned 50. This year t

St. Paul native and University of Minnesota graduate Bob Calmenson turned 60 on June 2. That's a major milestone for anyone, but especially for Bob, who was born with a life-threatening congenital heart defect—and not expected to make it to his 20s.

After two surgeries at the University's former Variety Club Heart Hospital when he was an adolescent, Bob has been able to live a full life, one that includes family, career, and weekends sailing off the coast of San Diego, his home since the mid-'80s. "I've been fortunate to be on this side of the grass for this long," he says wryly.


Alumnus Leo Hodroff has given the University of Minnesota's Program of Mortuary Science an early birthday present: $200,000 to establish the Leo A. Hodroff Scholarship in the 100-year-old program—the nation's oldest. His contribution is the program's largest gift ever and possibly the largest gift supporting mortuary science scholarships anywhere.

Since graduating from the Program of Mortuary Science more than 70 years ago, Hodroff has contributed immensely to the mortuary science profession and to his community. The family's Twin Cities mortuaries, Hodroff and Sons Chapels, have helped countless bereaved families and friends find comfort while honoring those who have died.


All rooms at the new home for the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital‚ Fairview‚ will be private and family-friendly. They will be 390 square feet each‚ about 75 percent larger than standard hospital rooms. All children's hospital rooms also will have sleeper sofas to make overnight stays more comfortable for parents. Additionally‚ the rooms will be equipped with kitchen tables‚ microwaves‚ and mini-fridges and will have in-room office areas to make them more like home‚ says Russell Williams‚ vice president of the patient experience at the hospital.

Peter Argenta, M.D.

Ask Peter Argenta, M.D., how he decided to enter the field of gynecologic oncology, and he doesn't skip a beat: "I tried not to go into it."

On his first day of medical school at Duke University, he had to fill out a questionnaire about his professional interests. "I said the only things of question were ob-gyn and oncology. Here I am 15 years later as a gynecologic oncologist," says Argenta, an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women's Health.

Residency director Phillip Rauk, M.D., and third-year resident Jeanne Nugent, M.D., discuss a patient’s chart.

Residents in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Minnesota are, in a strictly literal sense, all over the map.

From the University's research hospitals to urban county hospitals to suburban private settings, new physicians in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women's Health's residency program work in a variety of environments.

Thumbnail image for Deborah Powell, M.D.

To honor their parents, Leslie Turner, Fritz Corrigan, and Nancy Woodrow have endowed a fund for resident research and education in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women's Health.

Born and raised in Minnesota, the three siblings have seen how the state has benefited from the University of Minnesota's many areas of expertise. With their gifts to the Fritz and Mary Corrigan Resident Research Fund, they hope to help the University share that expertise and spirit of innovation with the next generation of obstetricians and gynecologists.

Rahel Ghebre, M.D., received BIRCWH funding to work on an alternative screening method for viruses associated with cervical cancer.

Since the 1950s, the Pap test has dramatically reduced rates of cervical cancer in the United States. But many American women—and millions more throughout the world—don't have Pap test screenings. In fact, in many developing countries, cervical cancer is still the leading cause of cancer-related death for women.

Gynecologic oncologist Rahel Ghebre, M.D., envisions a way to change that.

Jeanne McGahee

Jeanne McGahee hadn't been back home to see her family in Georgia for nine years, so when her doctor told her to take a break from chemotherapy, she headed south.

On a side trip to South Carolina, her companions were eating fresh oysters from a big tin bucket—but not McGahee, who's allergic to shellfish. Instead of feeling deprived, she enjoyed her fish and took home a few oyster shells, which she found interesting.

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