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Giving to medicine and health at the University of Minnesota

April 2010 Archives

Daniel Vallera, Ph.D., received funding to move new drugs he engineered into clinical trials.

When Minnesota Masonic Charities pledged $65 million to the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, two years ago, the organization had one mission in mind: eliminating cancer as a scourge of humankind by investing in research. Today the first research projects funded through this gift are under way, and all eyes are focused on improving outcomes for patients.

(Photo: Stephanie Dunn)

Breast cancer researcher Carol Lange, Ph.D., was recently named the new holder of the Tickle Family Land Grant Endowed Chair in Breast Cancer Research. The endowed position was previously held by Masonic Cancer Center director Douglas Yee, M.D. Lange co-leads the Women’s Cancer Research Program at the University.

Thumbnail image for Brain scans performed by cancer researcher Michael Garwood, Ph.D., in the late 1980s showed the advantage of high-resolution 4 Tesla images over 1 or 1.5 Tesla, then thought to be the optimal magnetic field for research and clinical us

People who drink two or more sweetened soft drinks a week almost double their risk of pancreatic cancer, finds research published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention. Although rare, pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of the disease. Only 5 percent of people who are diagnosed survive five years later.

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Regis Corporation CFO Randy Pearce (left) and chairman and CEO Paul Finkelstein (center) presented a big check to Masonic Cancer Center director Douglas Yee, M.D., on February 4—with big intentions. The $400,000 gift from the Regis Foundation for Breast Cancer Research establishes a permanently endowed fund to support University of Minnesota research focused on preventing, treating, and curing breast cancer.

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University biochemist David Bernlohr, Ph.D., received $563,286 in federal stimulus grants for two projects aimed at studying mechanisms in the body that promote obesity and type 2 diabetes. One grant supports a study of lipid binding— looking at how fats move from the bloodstream into the body. The second supports studies of insulin resistance, a condition that is a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

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

University of Minnesota researcher Pratima Pakala, Ph.D., knows the struggles of people living with diabetes. "My dad has been diabetic ever since I remember," she says. "I understand the hardships of patients and what families go through." Pakala, who grew up in Varanasi, India, says that in her native culture people commonly believed that diabetes was the result of bad luck.When she learned in school that diabetes has a scientific basis, it changed her life’s path.

From left to right, Steve, Jim, Cathy, and Pat Photo by Scott Streble

Pat Lyon has frightening memories of diabetes from her youth and her work as a nurse decades ago. "It was an early death sentence when I was working," she says, adding that diabetes caused her aunt’s husband to lose both of his legs. In 1990, Pat’s daughter, Cathy Myers-Korus, then 29, went to her doctor when she experienced blurred vision and extreme thirst. "She called me crying and said, 'Mom, I have diabetes,'" Pat recalls. "She was just devastated."

Thumbnail image for Best Buy founder Richard M. Schulze talks about his family's gift at a December 11 press conference, while University diabetes researchers Bernhard Hering, M.D., and Meri Firpo, Ph.D., look on.

The national American Diabetes Association elected Elizabeth Seaquist, M.D., a University of Minnesota professor of medicine, to its board of directors for a three-year term. Seaquist holds the University’s Pennock Family Chair in Diabetes Research, directs the University’s Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes Trial, and is principal investigator on the National Institutes of Health training grant for endocrinology and diabetes fellows.

Meredith and Tom Olson created a diabetes research fund in memory of Tom’s sister Carol in 2004 and have since watched as University investigators made significant strides toward a cure.

When Tom Olson’s younger sister, Carol, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 19, he wasn't sure what to expect. "I had heard of diabetes, but I just didn't know what that meant," he recalls.

But over the next two decades of Carol’s life, the entire Olson family learned the hard way. At first, Carol had some of the more typical complications, but they became more serious by the time she reached her mid-30s.

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The Minnesota home of Jane and Edward "Jack" Bardon, M.D., reflects their wanderlust. Every room displays folk art, rugs, and other souvenirs from their travels to places such as Southeast and Central Asia and West Africa. Many are items the Bardons acquired during their two years in the Peace Corps, which they joined in 2003, eight years into retirement. "Everything has a personal story for us. That's what makes it so special," says Jack, pointing to a detailed Aboriginal painting hanging high on the wall, purchased, he says, from a man on a bicycle in the Australian desert. It's that personal connection that drives the Bardons' actions in other areas of life as well, including their philanthropy.

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The U.S. Senate is considering a bill that would provide $4.5 billion in new child nutrition program funding over 10 years. The aim of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is to improve school lunches by providing more funding for more nutritious foods and by mandating higher nutrition standards.

Thumbnail image for Photo by Willette Pictures

Teens and young adults are eating less than one serving of whole grains a day, far below the recommended minimum of three servings, according to SPH research. While the importance of whole grains is well known—they help fight type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and weight gain—much less is known about the factors that encourage their consumption.

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The school’s third annual Alumni and Friends Scholarship Gala raised more than $33,000, and donors made additional gifts of nearly $10,000 to the Alumni Scholarship Endowment during the Gala-related fundraising drive.

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The first round of Premier Richard Norling Scholarships was awarded to winners of the CLARION National Case Competition, which recognizes interprofessional efforts among health care teams.


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