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Giving to medicine and health at the University of Minnesota

January 2009 Archives


Seventy years ago when a group of forward-thinking Medical School alumni got together to create the Minnesota Medical Foundation (MMF), the notion of establishing a foundation to help support an educational institution was a relatively new idea.

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

Helene Horwitz, Ph.D.

Helene Horwitz, Ph.D., spent her entire career mentoring and helping students. As associate dean for student affairs at the Medical School for the last 19 years, she helped University of Minnesota medical students get through difficult academic, financial, and emotional times. Before that, she served students as director of student aid and related programs at the Minnesota Medical Foundation.


N. L. ("Neal") Gault Jr., M.D., beloved former dean and alumnus of the University of Minnesota Medical School, died December 11 of pancreatic cancer at his St. Paul home. He was 88.

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 alumni awards, to be presented September 11 during the 2009 Alumni Reunion Weekend.

Classmates Christine Sarkinen, M.D. (left), and Katie Layon, M.D., catch up at their 10-year reunion.

Nearly 150 alumni reconnected with their classmates during Alumni Reunion Weekend on September 26-27, 2008. In total, 258 alumni and guests attended the weekend's activities.

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.

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.

Tiffany Beckman, M.D., the first Native American endocrinologist in the nation, stepped up to the podium and took a deep breath. "I told myself I wasn't going to cry," she began, but cry she did as she told Gerald Hill, M.D., what his encouragement had meant to her during medical school.

David Wallinga: Creating a healthier environment for children

Every day, David Wallinga, M.D., M.P.A., sees missed opportunities to prevent chronic disease. As director of the food and health program at the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), Wallinga examines how environmental factors, including how our foods are made, affect human health.


By noon that day, the University already had immunized 4,371 students, faculty, staff, and their dependents, breaking the previous world record of 3,271 set in Florida in November 2006.

The University of Minnesota reserved its spot in the book of Guinness World Records on October 28, when it immunized 11,538 people against the flu.


Medical School neuroscience researcher Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., is among the first investigators to receive a grant through the National Institutes of Health's EUREKA program.

Grants distributed through EUREKA—which stands for Exceptional, Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration—are awarded to scientists who are testing novel and unconventional hypotheses or working to overcome major methodological or technical challenges. This is the first time these grants have been awarded.

University of Minnesota diabetes researchers Pratima Pakala, Ph.D., and Brian Fife, Ph.D. Photo by Scott Streble

University of Minnesota Physicians and Edina-based Minnesota Heart Clinic (MHC) in October merged their cardiology programs, and with Fairview Health Services, they have established a new integrated cardiology program.


In a lecture at the University of Minnesota last fall, former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale encouraged his audience of largely Medical School faculty and other health-care professionals to above all build trust with those whom they're serving.

It's a lesson he learned in his political career, Mondale said, but it also applies to medicine: "I learned that public trust is indispensible to any kind of service."


A University of Minnesota psychiatry professor is being honored for his contributions to severe mental illness research and for his education efforts.

Irving I. Gottesman, Ph.D., who holds the Bernstein Professorship in Adult Psychiatry and a senior fellowship in the Department of Psychology, received the 2008 Alexander Gralnick Investigator Prize from the American Psychological Foundation (APF) in August. The award recognizes exceptional individuals who research serious mental illnesses—including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and paranoia—and train younger investigators.

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)

In the first national large-scale study of cancer rates among American Indians and Alaska Natives, researchers found that American Indians in Minnesota and the surrounding Northern Plains have a colorectal cancer rate 39 percent higher than non-Hispanic whites. Related studies indicate that this group also has a 197 percent higher rate of liver cancer, a 135 percent higher rate of stomach cancer, and a 148 percent higher rate of gallbladder cancer compared with non-Hispanic whites.

Dan Kaufman, M.D., Ph.D.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the University of Minnesota a $100,000 Grand Challenges Exploration grant for a global health research project that will explore the use of new stem cell-based therapies to fight the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

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.

The University of Minnesota in November awarded Phillip Peterson, M.D., and Paul Quie, M.D., codirectors of the International Medical Education and Research Program, its 2008 Award for Global Engagement.

The award recognizes University faculty and staff for outstanding contributions to global education and international programs.

Scott Dehm, Ph.D.

Scott Dehm, Ph.D., a prostate cancer researcher at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, has received a Young Investigator Award for 2008 from the Prostate Cancer Foundation.


University of Minnesota researchers discovered that one in four child survivors of cerebral malaria shows long-term cognitive impairment. In Sub-Saharan Africa, malaria is the leading cause of death among children. Cerebral malaria, one of the most deadly forms of the disease, affects more than 750,000 children per year.

Chandy John, M.D., the study's principal investigator and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, worked with neuropsychology expert Michael Boivin, Ph.D., M.P.H., from Michigan State University to evaluate the cognitive function of children with cerebral malaria who were admitted to the Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda.

Mary Tate, director of the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity, advises the University's award-winning chapter of the Student National Medical Association.

One was born in Rochester, Minnesota, the other in Nsukka, Nigeria. One is 39; the other is 24. One is passionate, maybe even a bit of a hothead; the other is analytical and judicious. Both are deeply committed to medicine and to combating health disparities—locally and globally. Together, as copresidents of the University of Minnesota's chapter of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), Suzanne Garber and Ngozika Okoye make a formidable team.

Medical Devices Fellows Program director Marie Johnson, Ph.D., says she's looking for “tinkerers.”

A constant hum fills the air at the University of Minnesota's Medical Devices Center. It's not the whir of high-tech equipment, but the talk of the three engineers and one medical student taking part in the 2008-09 Medical Devices Fellows Program, and the energy they're generating makes it clear why the University is gaining renown as a fertile ground for collaborations between physicians and engineers.

Biochemist Gülin Öz, Ph.D., is using magnetic resonance spectroscopy to track chemical precursors to spinocerebellar ataxia with the hopes of disrupting the process before the condition causes irreversible damage to the brain.

Some scientists make strides in biomedical research by acquiring state-of-the-art equipment and then using it to answer questions about living systems. "Good research can be done in that fashion," says Kamil Ugurbil, Ph.D., director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR).

Carl Platou, M.H.A.

Carl N. Platou, M.H.A., special adviser to Medical School Dean Deborah Powell, M.D., has a unique association with the Minnesota Medical Foundation (MMF). One could almost say MMF is in Platou’s genes, because it was his uncle and mentor, Erling Platou, M.D., who in 1939 started the foundation, together with a small but illustrious group of other Medical School alumni. Carl lived with his uncle at the time, having moved to Minneapolis from Brooklyn, New York, to finish high school after his mother died.


Most major medical discoveries don't happen in a single lab; they result from close collaboration across multiple institutions. That's why it was big news when University of Minnesota researchers learned in October that they had received a sevenyear collaboration grant to help develop the high-potential field of stem cell therapy.

With the grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), University researchers will partner with a research team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to understand how and when stem cells commit to becoming a certain type of blood cell.

Bryan Armitage will graduate in May after completing the University’s 5-year M.D./M.S. Dual Degree Program in Medicine and Biomedical Engineering.

When Bryan Armitage enrolled in the University of Minnesota Medical School, his background made him stand out. As an undergraduate at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, he earned a dual degree in chemical engineering and biology, and soon after graduation, he interned for a medical device manufacturer. Later, he spent five years working as an engineer for a company that made orthopaedic medical devices. “When I had conversations with the doctors involved with the company as well as the machinists on the floor, I felt like I could speak multiple languages,” he says.


After Pam Dallmann received an experimental islet cell transplant for diabetes, she felt as though she had walked into someone else's life. Dallmann was diagnosed at age 6 with type 1 diabetes, a disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly destroys all insulin-producing islet beta cells in the pancreas so the body doesn't produce insulin properly. It can lead to extreme highs and lows in blood sugar levels and potentially life-threatening complications.


Clinical psychologist Irving I. Gottesman, Ph.D., has brought a lot to the University of Minnesota. In 1966, just six years after earning his doctorate here, he founded the University's Behavior Genetics Training Program when the field was still young.

After a couple of decades away, he returned in 2001 with an extensive curriculum vitae listing dozens of studies on severe mental illnesses. And in 2008, Gottesman brought three prestigious awards to the University—two of his own and one for a colleague.


After John Manning was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and told he had just a few months to live, his daughter, Nancy Wick, spent those months caring for him and learning from his example.

"He had a lot of integrity and honesty. He would tell you how it was," Wick says of her father. "He showed that integrity throughout his whole life—even when he was sick. He never wallowed. He was always upbeat and positive."


As vice president of communications and marketing for the Minnesota Medical Foundation (MMF), Sarah Youngerman is applying her expertise in new ways but for a familiar cause: health-related research, service, and care at the University of Minnesota. Youngerman, who joined MMF in September, has worked for the University for the last eight years, most recently as director of community and public affairs for the Academic Health Center (AHC).

John and Nancy Lindahl

Dedicated philanthropists who support the University of Minnesota through the Minnesota Medical Foundation received well-deserved recognition from the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) last fall.

Alfred and Ingrid Lenz Harrison, named Outstanding Individual Philanthropists, have been longtime supporters of and volunteers in the areas of children's health at the University and the arts in the Twin Cities.


Magnetic resonance imaging has long been studied as a noninvasive tool for detecting breast tumors, and in fact, has nearly 100 percent sensitivity for detecting breast cancer. But the technology, which offers telling views of a tumor’s morphology, margins, and associated blood vessels, still can’t always discern whether the lump is benign or malignant.

Thumbnail image for Charles Marvin Jr., M.D., Class of 1981, and Reimert Ravenholt, M.D.,Class of 1951, chat before their class dinners.

The School of Public Health's Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) program has a valuable asset that's helped launch it into national prominence: the support of devoted alumni. As both the program's director and a faculty member, Sandra Potthoff, has watched MHA alumni go all out to ensure the program's success. "Our alumni will do anything for us," she says. "They are our partners in educating future health-care leaders."


Internationally known explorer Dan Buettner will keynote the second annual Alumni and Friends Scholarship Gala on May 16. The gala celebrates SPH alumni and raises scholarship funds for SPH students. Buettner is the bestselling author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from People Who've Lived the Longest. The book details Buettner's five-year exploration to the places in the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives. He has appeared as a longevity expert on Oprah, CNN, and ABC's Good Morning America. Buettner also has ties to the SPH through his collaboration with faculty members on research about healthy living.

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