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Stargazers invited to view Mars at its best at UT’s newly-renovated Brooks Observatory

After Memorial Day weekend, The University of Toledo Ritter Planetarium is opening the doors to its newly-renovated Brooks Observatory for Mars Watch 2016.

The public is invited from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, May 31-June 2, to view the Red Planet through the UT telescope as Mars marks its closest approach to Earth in more than a decade.

Photo credit: NASA

Photo credit: NASA

“There is a window every two and a half years when the views of Mars are exceptional because the planet comes into what is called opposition – the point when Mars and the sun are on directly opposite sides of the Earth,” Alex Mak, associate director of UT Ritter Planetarium, said. “Each year is a little bit different.  This year is one of the better ones.”

The event is free and dependent on clear skies.

“This opportunity to see Mars at its best will be fascinating for people of all ages,” Mak said. “Mars is probably everybody’s favorite planet besides Earth. The zillion dollar question is whether there is life on Mars. We don’t know yet. It’s going to be the first planet we ever travel to. As far as conditions, it’s the one that is most like Earth.”

Visitors are invited to meet in the lobby of McMaster Hall where they will be guided up to Brooks Observatory.


UT Lake Erie Center invites volunteers to help keep Maumee Bay State Park beach barefoot friendly

The somewhat ticklish, exfoliating feel of toes in the sand is one of the joys of a Great Lakes summer escape.

To preserve the beauty and health of a northwest Ohio shoreline frequently visited by families, The University of Toledo Lake Erie Center is inviting the public to help pick up litter on Maumee Bay State Park’s public beach at 4 p.m. Friday, June 3 in Oregon.

The clean up is in partnership with the Alliance for the Great Lakes which holds more than a dozen Adopt-a-Beach events throughout the region each year sponsored by Barefoot Wine and Bubbly.

Last year, nearly 15,000 Adopt-a-Beach volunteers – enough to fill 207 school buses – removed 37,581 pounds of trash at 348 locations in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin.

“It’s important that people throughout our entire community take care of our Lake Erie beaches,” said Rachel Lohner, education program manager at the UT Lake Erie Center. “Keeping them tidy will help inspire a new generation of Great Lakes lovers with a lifelong respect for their value to our ecosystem and economy.”

For more information or to register online, visit greatlakesadopt.org.


UT names McKether to newly created vice president for diversity role

Dr. Willie McKether, who had been serving in a temporary role this spring as special assistant to the president for diversity, has been name vice president for diversity and inclusion, UT President Sharon L. Gaber announced today, pending approval by the UT Board of Trustees. McKether also will hold a vice provost appointment.

Since her arrival at The University of Toledo last July, Gaber has been working to promote diversity throughout the culture of the University.

“The strengthening of a campus culture that is inclusive, values diversity and uniqueness, and celebrates that we can learn from our differences is a responsibility we all share,” Gaber said. “Dr. McKether’s job is to help coordinate our efforts, to push us forward, and to provide the expertise and guidance that ensures we are moving toward a better future. He has the right skill set, passion and drive to do just that.”

McKether

McKether

McKether’s professional background and training in cultural anthropology and multicultural retention efforts over the past 10 years have helped provide a world view that will aid him in this new role, Gaber said.

“This role is about creating an environment where all members of the UT community, and all those who visit our campus, feel like they belong,” McKether said. “I look forward to helping advance some of the great work already underway to increase our recruitment and retention of minority students, faculty and staff.”

Much of the work McKether will take on has been outlined in the draft strategic diversity plan he led the coordination of this spring as special assistant to the president for diversity. Trustees will consider the plan in the months ahead.

“The road map is nearly there and it was created thanks to input from hundreds of members of the UT and Toledo communities,” said McKether, who will start July 1 and report to Gaber. “I can’t wait to get started.”

McKether said he’s also planning to increase UT’s outreach to advocacy groups in the community and ensure there is an ongoing dialogue.

In addition to his faculty position in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, McKether has served as associate dean in the College of Languages, Literature and Social Sciences. He is also a leader in the organization Brothers on the Rise, and an advisor to the Black Student Union. He is co-founder and co-director of the Multicultural Emerging Scholars Program, designed to retain students at The University of Toledo .

Dr. Shanda Gore will serve as associate vice president of the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women and the Minority Business Development Center, working across UT to advance these organizations.

Campus and Community Reaction:
“I am pleased with the announcement by Dr. Sharon Gaber and The University of Toledo. For as long as I have known and worked with Dr. Willie McKether I have been impressed by his scholarship, integrity, and commitment to diversity, the University and our community.” – Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson

“Dr. Willie McKether is the right person, at the right time, working under the right president to further elevate diversity as a priority for The University of Toledo and for northwest Ohio.” — John C. Moore, community leader

“Dr. Willie McKether has been outstanding during this last year as The University of Toledo transitions to a truly diverse institution. I am very excited to see him step into the role of vice president for diversity and inclusion because he will unlock the potential of the Rocket community to be a diverse and inclusive home for everyone.” — Alexandria Hetzler, President of Spectrum

“Dr. Willie McKether is an inspirational figure in the African-American community. He has a contagious passion for education that has proven to be transformative for young people and especially young men. He possesses the strong moral values needed to inspire young people to believe in themselves and the possibilities for a bright future.” – The Rev. Otis J. Gordon Jr.

“Differences make communities stronger. The Disability Studies Program looks forward to partnering with Dr. McKether to advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities to break down barriers and celebrate those distinctions that make us all unique.” – Dr. Jim Ferris, chair of the UT Disabilities Studies Program and Ability Center Endowed Chair in Disability Studies

“UT plays an important diversity role in our community. Many of the area high school students attending UT are the first in their families to achieve the goal of a college degree. An investment in diversity is an investment in a strong community for years to come. I look forward to the continued partnership between UT, Toledo Public Schools and this community.” — Bob Vasquez, board of education president, Toledo Public Schools


Biomedical company created by UT faculty celebrates FDA clearance, first product launch

Two local bioengineers are officially in the business of back pain relief.

A new medical device developed by researchers at The University of Toledo to help reduce infections from spinal surgery is making its market debut.

Spinal Balance is celebrating the launch of its first locally grown product called the Libra Pedicle Screw System at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 25 at the Nitschke Technology Commercialization Complex on UT Main Campus.

Libra Pedicle Screw System

Libra Pedicle Screw System

Libra is a pre-sterilized, individually packaged screw system designed to combat contamination in the operating room as a result of contact with people, containers or surfaces. The product will help surgeons at hospitals worldwide improve patient care and reduce costs.

“Deep bone infections are a serious problem,” said Dr. Anand Agarwal, CEO of Spinal Balance and UT professor of bioengineering. “Keeping anything from touching or contacting the threads of a screw is very important. Our aim is to provide the surgeon with technically-advanced implants that are easy to handle and can be implanted using improved aseptic technique.”

“We reduce the variables in the operating room that contribute to infections,” said Don Kennedy, director of sales and marketing for Spinal Balance. “No one ever has to touch the implant prior to it being placed into a patient.”

The Food and Drug Administration cleared the Libra system last year to be used for spine fusion and to treat back pain in cases of degeneration, trauma and deformity.

Agarwal and Dr. Vijay Goel, UT Distinguished University Professor and the McMaster-Gardner Endowed Chair of Orthopedic Bioengineering, launched Spinal Balance in 2013 and developed the Libra technology through support from the State of Ohio’s Third Frontier program, Rocket Innovations and UT’s LaunchPad Incubation program.

“We value, foster and invest in the entrepreneurial spirit here at The University of Toledo,” said Jessica Sattler, director of economic engagement and business development programs at UT.  “Our LaunchPad Incubation program provides faculty members and community entrepreneurs intensive entrepreneurial assistance and state-of-the-art facilities for research, development, manufacturing and storage as they navigate the long road from concept to commercialization. The success of Drs. Agarwal and Goel also is a proud accomplishment for our program.”

The celebration of the Libra product launch begins with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by presentations at 6:15 p.m. and a dinner at 7:15 p.m.

Spinal Balance is one of three private companies Agarwal has located in the LaunchPad Incubation program with other UT research faculty members.

Agarwal’s company called IntelliSenze recently received $150,000 in state funds to help commercialize microprocessor chips under development that can detect the presence of bacteria and viruses.


UT College of Medicine to host commencement May 27

Retired U.S. Air Force Maj, Gen. Susan Desjardins will serve as the commencement speaker for the The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences graduation ceremony 2 p.m. Friday, May 27 at the Stranahan Theater.

There are 254 candidates for degrees, including 169 who will receive doctor of medicine degrees, five will receive a doctor of philosophy degree; 65 will receive master’s degrees; and 15 will receive graduate certificates.

Desjardins will receive an honorary degree of doctor of public service.

Desjardins

“We are honored to have General Desjardins speak to our graduating class,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, senior vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “Her professional accomplishments and commitment to community exemplify the leadership traits we desire to see in all of our graduates.”

“Public Service takes many forms and it is gratifying that an institution dedicated to public service through teaching the healing arts and sciences has recognized that serving in the military also enhances the well-being of our fellow citizens,” Desjardins said. “I am humbled by the great honor bestowed upon me by the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.”

A command pilot with more than 3,800 flying hours, Desjardins retired after a 32-year career in the Air Force. Her final active duty assignment was as the director of plans and policy for U.S. Strategic Command.

Desjardins received her commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy and her bachelor of science degree in international affairs/political science. She also holds master of arts degrees in industrial psychology and human relations from Louisiana Tech University and national security and strategic studies from Naval Command and Staff College.

Currently, Desjardins is a consultant for Project Air Force with RAND Corporation and is a trustee and nominating committee member of the Falcon Foundation, which supports military prep school scholarships for those who desire to attend the Air Force Academy. She also serves as president of the Board of Governors of the Independence Museum and as the national defense committee chair of the Exeter Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Exeter, NH. She was recently selected to the Board of Trustees of Exeter Health Resources.


Clinical trial for new breast cancer detection method underway at UTMC

An investigational technology is being studied to determine if it can assist in early breast cancer detection. This investigational technology that is being studied at The University of Toledo Medical Center uses thermal imaging to see if it can identify tumors. The radiation free and painless test uses cool air and a camera to measure the temperature of the skin surface.

Throughout 2016 patients visiting the Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center for a mammogram will be offered the opportunity to participate in the First Sense Medical research study to evaluate the effectiveness of the investigational First Sense Breast Exam procedure. The goal is to enroll up to 2,000 women who are 18 years of age or older in order to compare the results of both tests to determine the potential for the thermal scan to be used as an additional breast cancer detection tool.

“The mammogram has long been used as the standard of care in screening for breast cancer and through this clinical trial we are evaluating the First Sense Breast Exam as an adjunctive screening device for the detection of breast cancer that is radiation free and pain free with no breast compression or any physical contact with the patient. In this study, the First Sense Breast Exam is performed immediately prior to the mammogram in the same clinic visit,” said Dr. Haitham Elsamaloty, a UT radiologist and professor of radiology who is the principal investigator for the study.

The First Sense Breast Exam procedure takes less than 10 minutes. The patient disrobes from the waist up and sits on a chair in front of the machine’s infrared and 3D cameras. Thermal images are then taken from the front and sides of the breasts both before and after cool air is blown on the patient.

The patient is exposed to a cool air to cause normal blood vessels to contract and reduce the temperature of normal tissue, but the blood vessels that feed the tumor do not contract so the temperature of the tumor does not change. The infrared thermal imaging camera measures the difference in skin surface temperature to identify abnormalities.

“The thermal imaging screening could be particularly helpful for younger patients and women with dense breast tissue for which it is more difficult to detect tumors using mammography,” Elsamaloty said.


Free wellness seminar offers nutrition advice to cancer patients

Good nutrition is an important weapon in the fight against cancer. Eating right can help patients feel better and stay stronger during cancer care, but treatments can often cause nausea and reduce a patient’s appetite.

“Each patient’s experience with chemotherapy and other cancer treatments is different,” said Jodi McClain, a nurse practitioner at The University of Toledo Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center who organized the event. “It is our goal to help our patients maintain a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle to support their immune system and boost their energy levels.”

Cancer patients are invited to learn about the benefits of proper nutrition and view a cooking demonstration of meals designed just for them at a free wellness seminar called Get the Most from Your Diet During Cancer Treatment and Beyond at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 19 at the Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center on the UT Health Science Campus. Registration begins at 5:30 p.m.

The evening will include nutrition information from Kristi Mason, board certified specialist in oncology nutrition for UT Health, and a cooking demonstration by Jake O’Leary, executive chef at Extra Virgin Catering Services.

“We will review what it means to follow a healthy diet and discuss ways that patients can maintain their calorie and nutrient intake during treatment,” Mason said. “Many patients find they better tolerate small meals or a liquid diet, so we will focus on high-protein, nutrient-dense meals and smoothies.”

The event is a part of the Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center Wellness Information Series.


Expert focuses on treating skin cancer with prevention during awareness month

While many people remember to protect themselves from sunburn when it’s sunny outside, University of Toledo Health physicians recommend taking daily precautions to prevent developing skin cancer because damaging rays from the sun can penetrate cloud cover and cause skin damage.

One in five people will develop skin cancer, making it the most common cancer in the United States with nearly six million cases treated each year. May is National Skin Cancer Awareness and Prevention Month and is a good time to review how to protect us from the sun.

Chaudhuri

Chaudhuri

Dr. Prabir Chaudhuri, professor and surgical director of The University of Toledo’s Eleanor N. Cancer Center recommends avoiding the sun during its peak hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., if possible. If exposure is unavoidable, take these precautions:

  • Wear lightweight, long-sleeve shirts, hats and sunglasses;
  • Liberally apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF every day and reapply often, especially when sweating or swimming; and
  • Do not assume a “base tan” from a tanning booth protects you from sunburn or UV damage.

“Using a tanning bed in an effort to avoid sunburn and skin damage is a myth. Tanning beds use intense UVA rays to darken skin, but UVB rays from the sun are what cause sunburns,” Chaudhuri said. “Both are dangerous and we know that tanning, whether indoors or out, causes cumulative damage to the skin, which can result in skin cancer.”

Melanoma is most common among older adults and senior citizens, but Chaudhuri says people of all ages can develop these malignant tumors.

“People with dysplastic nevi, a family history of skin cancer, extreme sun exposure or who have medical conditions which suppress the immune system need to be particularly vigilant in protecting themselves against melanoma,” Chaudhuri said. “Children are especially at risk because they have their whole lives to accumulate skin damage due to sun exposure.”

Dysplastic nevi are benign moles that can appear on any part of the body. They range in size and can be light pink to very dark brown in color. Dysplastic nevi are usually genetic and start to appear in late childhood and may increase in number with age. As many as one in 14 individuals have at least one of these atypical moles.

One of Dr. Chaudhuri’s patients says he monitors his skin carefully for changes because dysplastic nevi run in his family.

“I have a lot of moles, and I’m always looking for changes in their color and shape,” Thomas Fischer said. “I’ve had two melanoma removed. It makes me very anxious because I am likely to get it again and I know it can progress. It’s important to keep up with it.”

Regular skin-self exams are important in identifying potential skin cancers. All areas of skin should be checked, not just areas that see regular sun exposure. Melanomas have been found on the scalp, groin areas and bottoms of the feet. The appearance of any skin irregularities or changes in existing moles should be examined by a trained physician in an effort to find and treat melanoma in its earliest stages.

“I visit Dr. Chaudhuri every six months now due to my risk of recurrence,” Fischer said. “After spending years at the lake, skiing and getting tan, I realize there’s a tradeoff. All that sun catches up to you eventually.”

Chaudhuri says a checkup takes just a few minutes and problem spots can be identified and removed quickly.

He said, “If caught early, melanoma typically responds well to treatment, but the best treatment for any disease is always prevention.”


Precision medicine expert to speak at UT May 12

A precision medicine expert working to bring whole genome sequencing into a clinical setting will speak at The University of Toledo at 2 p.m. Thursday, May 12 in Collier Building Room 1000A on Health Science Campus.

Dr. Howard Jacob

Dr. Howard Jacob

Dr. Howard Jacob, president of Envision Genomics and executive vice president for genomic medicine at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Alabama, is visiting UT as part of a Distinguished Lecture series.

“Dr. Jacob is an international authority in the area of genomic medicine. He has had pioneering success in the application of whole genome sequencing technology to diagnose rare diseases,” said Dr. Bina Joe, chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. “Dr. Jacob’s team is known worldwide as the first to identify a genetic mutation responsible for an undiagnosed illness in a child. That identification led to successful treatment.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, precision medicine – also known as personalized medicine – is an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment and lifestyle of each person.

President Barack Obama is an advocate for the movement to use genetics, genomics and data to provide individualized health care, instead of generalized trial results or guidelines for the average patient. In 2015 the White House launched the Precision Medicine Initiative, a new research effort to help change the future of medicine to bring closer cures for cancer and diabetes.

“Dr. Jacob is expected to educate and invigorate our campus community regarding the progress and prospects of whole genome sequencing as applicable to each individual in our community, as well as on the much broader mission of UTMC to provide the best health care to our communities,” Joe said. “I hope we will have a better perspective on the benefits, risks and challenges of bringing genomic medicine to the people of northwest Ohio.”

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Celebration of Life service May 13 for Dr. Cyrus Chan who lost battle with colon cancer

The University of Toledo Department of Surgery is inviting the community to honor the 39-year-old general surgery resident who lost his battle with colon cancer last month.

A Celebration of Life memorial service for Dr. Cyrus Chan will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, May 13 at UT’s Jacobs Interprofessional Immersive Simulation Center on Health Science Campus.

“Our resident, friend and colleague lived his life so beautifully to help heal patients and teach medical students,” Mary Burda, UT residency education coordinator, said. “He always had a positive, passionate attitude and deserves to be beautifully remembered. Please join us as we share stories, memories and laughter.”

Dr. Cyrus Chan

Dr. Cyrus Chan

To ensure Chan’s legacy lives on, friends and fellow doctors created an endowed scholarship for medical students and an endowed award for residents that will be presented annually through the UT Foundation in his name.

Tributes may be made to the Dr. Cyrus Chan Endowed Scholarship Fund or the Dr. Cyrus Chan Teaching Award in Surgery at give2ut.utoledo.edu.

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