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October 2011 Archives

CTSI founding director Bruce Blazar, M.D., and Medical School Dean Aaron Friedman, M.D., expect a $51 million NIH grant to accelerate discovery that benefits the larger community. (Photo: Scott Streble)

When Dorothy Hatsukami, Ph.D., began her University of Minnesota research career, investigators had to be "extraordinarily resourceful" to find everything they needed to conduct a study, from laboratory equipment to advice on filling out regulatory forms.

"Individual researchers had to do pretty much everything on their own," says Hatsukami, a professor of psychiatry and director of the University's Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center. It took time and sleuthing to get questions answered, forms completed, and studies set up and running. "There wasn't one place that you could go to ask questions," she recalls.

Today, 30 years later, that "one place" is finally becoming a reality for University researchers.


When 66-year-old Patty Bilkey experienced sudden fatigue on a Monday in late June last year, she attributed it to the only reasonable explanation she could think of — overdoing herself during a “girls’ weekend” away.

But when her skin became clammy and she began experiencing flu-like symptoms with a slight pain in her left arm, she became more concerned.

“I remember I was sitting at the computer that morning, looking up ‘how to get more energy’ when it dawned on me that I should instead be doing a search on signs of a heart attack,” Bilkey says.

Kathleen Annette, M.D., Class of ’83, has traveled the country on a winding career path that recently brought her to a brand-new place — and back home again.

On September 1, after 25 years with the Indian Health Service, Annette began her new role as CEO of the Blandin Foundation, based in Grand Rapids, Minn. There she plans to work with the foundation’s board and 26-person staff to accomplish its mission: to strengthen rural Minnesota communities.

She wants to do that in part by examining diversity in the context of race, gender, poverty, and access to education to determine how the foundation can help communities be their healthiest.

Augustine Biomedical + Design's lobby showcases many of the patent plaques belonging to Scott Augustine, M.D. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Scott Augustine, M.D., has built a career out of being skeptical.

“I question most things,” says Augustine (Class of 1979). “Instead of trying to do what everybody’s always done, what’s a better way of doing this?”

All of that questioning has made Augustine, a self-described “philosophical heretic,” a successful inventor and entrepreneur. Now founder and CEO of Augustine Biomedical + Design, Augustine holds about 150 patents. There’s not enough room in the entry space of his Eden Prairie office building — vaulted ceilings and all — to display the full collection of patent plaques.


In 1911, life expectancy was 47 years, and more than 95 percent of births took place at home. The leading causes of death were pneumonia and influenza, and antibiotics were a distant dream. Even the way medicine was taught seems completely foreign to us now, with the majority of doctors back then having had no university training.

That was all about to change. The University of Minnesota was on the pioneering edge of a new era of standardized medical instruction. With a gift of $115,000 from the family of a Minneapolis doctor whose real estate holdings proved to be quite valuable, the University’s first independent teaching hospital was born.


The Global Health Course, taught in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aims to decrease disparities in medicine, in part, by improving health care for immigrants, refugees, and travelers.

The course is open to practicing health professionals in addition to resident physicians in training. Gopherstan is meant to give course participants a taste of working under pressure in “resource-limited settings.”

One of two current University students pursuing a dual degree in medicine and biomedical engineering. Robin Brusen sees his future in academic medicine. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Fourth-year medical student Robin Brusen is a problem solver.

While earning his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering at Northwestern University, he and a group of fellow students were charged with finding a quick, easy, cheap way to monitor premature infants in rural South Africa for sleep apnea.

They rigged up a prototype that would buzz if it couldn’t sense the baby’s breathing and then tested it on balloons in their college laboratory. They used the device’s deflection sensor to recharge its own battery.

“To actually see it working in the way you had intended it to work, it’s a pretty amazing feeling,” says Brusen.


Broke your leg? You’ll want to see an orthopaedist, of course. Experiencing cloudy vision? Call your ophthalmologist.

Having trouble sleeping, lost your energy and appetite? Well, you could call a psychiatrist … or a psychologist, counselor, social worker, therapist, or even a personal “coach.”

A new book, Shrink Rap: Three Psychiatrists Explain Their Work, explains the sometimes fuzzy distinctions between these professionals and what they do.

Karen and Eric Kaler, Ph.D.

When Eric Kaler, Ph.D., took the reins as the University of Minnesota’s new president on July 1, he dedicated his first 100 days on the job to listening and learning.

Daniel Watson, M.D., Kay Johnson, M.D., and Joseph Zunt, M.D., were among those celebrating their 20-year reunion. (Photo: Tim Rummelhoff)

Nearly 250 Medical School alumni and guests returned to the University of Minnesota for Alumni Weekend September 22, 23, and 24. In addition to the classes that were celebrating milestone reunions, Medical School alumni from all classes were invited to take part in the festivities.

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When Florida State University football coach Jimbo Fisher and his wife, Candi, learned earlier this year that their son Ethan has a rare, life-threatening blood disorder called Fanconi anemia, they felt compelled to take action that would help not only Ethan but other children, too.

So they established the Kidz 1st Fund to raise money for Fanconi anemia research at the University of Minnesota. The University is a leader in discovering better ways to treat the disorder and in the pursuit of a cure.

Image courtesy of Architectural Alliance/ZGF Architects.

The University of Minnesota broke ground May 11 on a state-of-the-art research building — the “gateway” to the institution’s Biomedical Discovery District. When it’s complete in spring 2013, the Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building will bring together top University investigators to discover the next wave of cancer and cardiovascular therapies.

Utility met style at Scrubbed into Fashion (Photo courtesy of

It's not often that we in the medical profession interact with the fashion industry. Last spring, however, fourthyear University of Minnesota medical student Phillip Radke teamed up with students in the College of Design to put on a one-of-a-kind fundraiser called “Scrubbed into Fashion.”

In this well-attended runway show, medical students modeled stylish outfits created by design students that were then judged by a panel of local experts. The catch? All of the outfits were made out of scrubs!


Humans and canines may benefit from a recent University of Minnesota discovery that can help predict the aggressiveness of bone cancer.

A team led by Jaime Modiano, V.M.D., Ph.D., a College of Veterinary Medicine and Masonic Cancer Center expert in comparative medicine, discovered a gene pattern in dogs that distinguishes a more severe form of bone cancer from a less aggressive type.

Thumbnail image for Bruce Blazar, M.D.

University of Minnesota Medical School and Masonic Cancer Center researchers have discovered a method to quickly and exponentially grow regulatory T-cells, dramatically increasing the chances for successful bone marrow and organ transplants.

The new technique, developed by Bruce Blazar, M.D., director of the University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and an immunology team, also will have profound implications for patients with autoimmune diseases such as lupus, type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

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Ahead of the curve, Medical School alumnus Lee Wattenberg, M.D., first recognized in 1965 that certain chemical compounds improved disease prevention in animals, a discovery that helped launch the field of chemoprevention — and his own illustrious career.

A year later, he published a paper in the journal Cancer Research that laid the groundwork for research into chemopreventive compounds and coined the term “chemoprophylaxis” — the prevention of disease by chemical agents.


Catch up on what is happening within the Health Sciences at the University of Minnesota.


“I feel both personal pride and increased responsibility — an ownership of the curriculum for these students,” says Alan Johns, M.D., M.Ed., of this year’s incoming medical students. “I want them to become excellent practicing physicians, and this is their first step.”

Johns (Class of 1976) is taking his first steps, too, as the new assistant dean for medical education and curriculum at the Medical School, Duluth campus. He replaces Richard Hoffman, Ph.D., who left that role in anticipation of his retirement in 2012.

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Fredericus (Erik) van Kuijk, M.D., Ph.D., on October 1 began his new duties as head of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

An expert in early diagnosis and nutritional and pharmacological therapies for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), van Kuijk earned both his M.D. and Ph.D. (biochemistry) from the University of Nijmegen, the Netherlands. His research has led to new approaches to preventing the progression of AMD.

The new University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital was ranked one of the nation's top 50 children's hospitals in eight medical specialties.

University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview and University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital are again among an elite group of hospitals named the nation’s best by U.S. News & World Report.


Five University of Minnesota Medical School alumni will be honored for their work in the service of the medical profession at a banquet on Friday, October 28, at the University of Minnesota’s McNamara Alumni Center.

John I. Coe, M.D.

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


When University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital opened the doors of its emergency department for the first time on April 30, the breakthrough pediatric medicine offered there became easier to find. The brand-new hospital, located on the University's Riverside campus, now has a welcoming and easy-to-find emergency department dedicated solely to children.


Rich Kaplan, M.D., M.S.W., was deliberate about the words he chose when he named the University of Minnesota's Center for Safe and Healthy Children five years ago. "The goal of the center is to keep children safe and to support families so they can raise healthy kids," says Kaplan, who also founded the center and is one of only two physicians in Minnesota (and one of fewer than 200 in the United States) board-certified in child abuse pediatrics.

Kyle Schwendemann

Something wasn’t right with Kyle Schwendemann. He came back from an ice fishing trip with pale skin and purple lips, recalls his mother, Melissa. She knew his cystic fibrosis was behind it.


Help your kids start the school year off right with these tips from the Vikings Fitness Playbook, a tool using offensive and defensive plays from childhood obesity experts at the University of Minnesota and supported by the Minnesota Vikings and Vikings Children's Fund.


Looking back, Marcy Betcher thinks the seeds that would later grow into her family's support for University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital were planted back in 1997 at the sight of little red wagons.


It has been more than 40 years since University of Minnesota physicians performed the world's first successful pediatric bone marrow transplant, and researchers here have never stopped trying to find better ways to secure long and healthy lives for children who have cancer. Physician-scientist Heather Stefanski, M.D., Ph.D., echoes the dedication of her colleagues past and present when she says of her young patients, “I have to make life better for them.”

Artwork by Jimmy Reagan

Find more information WineFest No. 17, Dawn of a Dream, and Dave Lee's Gutter Bowl.

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Two pioneering University of Minnesota pediatric cancer researchers will be recognized for their tireless dedication to children on October 28 at the University's McNamara Alumni Center.

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