TAG: "Global health"

Prusiner appointed to board of Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research

Nobel laureate joins board aimed at increasing scientific and technological research.

Nobel laureate Stanley Prusiner, who discovered an unprecedented class of pathogens that he named prions, has been appointed to the board of directors for a newly created federal organization called the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research.

Nobel laureate Stanley Prusiner, M.D., professor in the UCSF Department of Neurology and director of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, has been appointed to a 15-member board of directors for a newly created federal foundation, aimed to leverage public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships. The goal of the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR) is to boost America’s agricultural economy. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement about the creation of FFAR and its board on July 23.

Authorized by Congress as part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the foundation will operate as a nonprofit corporation seeking and accepting private donations in order to fund research activities that focus on problems of national and international significance. Congress also provided $200 million for the foundation which must be matched by non-federal funds as the Foundation identifies and approves projects.

“Studies have shown that every dollar invested in agricultural research creates $20 in economic activity,” said Vilsack. “Investments in innovation made over the past several decades have developed new products and new procedures that have been critical to the continued growth of American agriculture. We must continue to make strategic investments in research and technology if we are to remain leaders in the global economy.”

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Forbes, Buffett honor UCSF donor

Chuck Feeney recognized after decades of stealth philanthropy.

Chuck Feeney, after decades of anonymous and stealth philanthropy, has been caught in the spotlight by earning a Forbes 400 Lifetime Achievement Award.

In presenting the award, billionaire Warren Buffett referred to Feeney as his hero, and Bill Gates’ hero as well. “He should be everybody’s hero,” Buffett remarked.

Feeney, through his philanthropic arm The Atlantic Philanthropies, is UC San Francisco’s single greatest benefactor, giving more than a quarter of a billion dollars over the years. Proof of his epic generosity is visible most prominently at Mission Bay, where he has provided indispensable support to state-of-the-art buildings and created the environment for the remarkable science that goes on within them.

“Chuck’s approach to giving is based on backing great people in achieving demonstrable outcomes. As he has noted, ‘you should think of your philanthropic efforts as a business – out to achieve a demonstrable result,’” said Feeney’s business partner, Steve Denning, who accepted the honor on his behalf.

Feeney’s deep and wide investment in UCSF is evidence of his confidence in UCSF’s ability to deliver on its promise as a world-class bioscience center.

His most recent gift to UCSF has been to Global Health Sciences, enabling UCSF to build Mission Hall, which will house its global health researchers, scientists, and students under the same roof for the first time. The building opens this fall.

Feeney also has given generously to the building of the Smith Cardiovascular Research Building, Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building, and the UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, which opens its doors in 2015.

“Chuck Feeney is an extraordinary human being – a visionary, a humanitarian, and a pragmatist,” said Interim Chancellor Sam Hawgood, M.B.B.S. “These traits have made him an indispensable partner in our evolution as a global health science hub. We are thrilled that he is being recognized for the magnitude of his remarkable generosity around the world.”

Committed to “giving while living,” Feeney transferred nearly all his and his family’s assets to The Atlantic Philanthropies with the intent to give it all away during his lifetime. For the first 15 years, Feeney swore The Atlantic Philanthropies staff to secrecy and gave anonymously, until he was outed by Forbes Magazine. By 2016, Atlantic Philanthropies will close its books, having emptied its $7.5 billion coffers into the promising causes Feeney has carefully chosen over the years.

“Chuck Feeney has changed the face of philanthropy,” said Hawgood. “Giving while living substantially increases the value of a gift both emotionally and financially. The working relationship we have with Chuck has been a source of inspiration for us all, personally and professionally.”

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Dairy training aims to boost Rwanda to health

UC Davis initiative is working to improve dairy cows’ health and productivity in African nation.

Cows provide Rwandan farmers with a nutrient-rich source of food for their families.

In Rwanda, the expression “have milk” — “gira amata” — is not part of a milk-mustachioed marketing campaign. It’s a wish for prosperity.

UC Davis scientists hope to make that wish come true in the small African nation, by improving dairy cows’ health and productivity — and thereby people’s health, too.

Dairying is a centuries-old enterprise in Rwanda, but production levels are quite low, and the milk is often contaminated with bacteria that pose health risks for cows and people.

“The underproduction of milk in Rwanda is heartbreaking,” said professor Ray Rodriguez, executive director of the UC Davis Global HealthShare Initiative.  Rwandan cows produce just 5 liters of milk per day on average, whereas if the cows were healthy and well cared for, they should produce 25 to 40 liters per day, he said.

Partnership with Rwanda

The UC Davis Global HealthShare Initiative is coordinating a partnership among campus scientists and students, and their colleagues in Rwanda.

The UC Davis partners are not only teaching Rwandan veterinarians, veterinary students, university faculty and government officials how to improve the health and productivity of dairy cows and the safety of milk, but how to provide the same training around Rwanda, a nation of smallholder farmers.

Faculty members on the team are Rodriguez and Jim Cullor, a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine and director of its Dairy Food Safety Laboratory.

Their team comprises Somen Nandi, co-founder and managing director for Global HealthShare and principal investigator for its Rwanda project, and several graduate and undergraduate students.

“It’s about feeding the kids,” Cullor said. “It’s the children of Rwanda who are our customers.”

Rodriguez added that the project also is a reminder of the international aspect of modern health issues. “All health is now global health; we can’t just look at our health in the U.S. in isolation,” he said.

Focus on mastitis and ‘rural tech’

The UC Davis team is focusing on mastitis, a bacterial infection of the cow’s udder and the most common dairy cattle disease in the United States. In Rwanda, mastitis reduces milk production, causes milk to be unfit for sale and may result in the cow’s death.

During the past year, the UC Davis team has provided training to 40 Rwandan veterinary students, university faculty and government officials, teaching them practical techniques for preventing mastitis and identifying the different types of bacteria that are likely to be found in milk.

The success of the Rwandan program relies upon developing a collaborative partnership with the Rwandan government, and identifying technologies that are appropriate for that country.

For example, sophisticated laboratory tests used in the United States are not economically practical for Rwanda. Instead, the UC Davis team is training the veterinary professionals and students to prepare petri dishes on which microbial cultures can be grown.

“It’s not low tech; we call it ‘rural tech,’” Cullor said.

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Grant will advance research on African malaria mosquito

UC Riverside’s Bradley White will produce critical tool aimed at crippling Anopheles gambiae.

Bradley White, UC Riverside

Malaria, the most deadly mosquito-borne disease, kills more than 500,000 people each year, with more than 90 percent of the deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.  While poverty and poor medical care contribute to the African malaria burden, the importance of the uniquely efficient mosquito vectors present in Africa cannot be overlooked.

One particularly promising area of research involves genetic engineering of mosquitoes to prevent transmission.  Although great progress has been made in developing mosquitoes that cannot transmit malaria, more knowledge is needed before such mosquitoes can be released.

Bradley White, an assistant professor of entomology at UC Riverside, has received a five-year grant of more than $1.8 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the many institutes that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The grant will allow his lab to produce fine-scale recombination rate maps for the African malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae.

The grant is a NIH “R01” grant, RO1 being an NIH activity code.  At 31, White is one of the youngest NIH R01 principal investigators in the country (well less than 1 percent of NIH principal investigators are 31 or younger).

“By the end of the project, we will have produced these recombination rate maps that can be used to model and predict the efficacy of various novel vector control strategies,” said White, who joined UC Riverside in 2011.  “Ultimately, this project will provide a critical tool in the ongoing fight against one of humanity’s ancient foes.”

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UCLA physicians use Google Glass to teach surgery abroad

Teaching surgeons can watch operation and comment via this tech tool.

Imagine watching a procedure performed live through the eyes of the surgeon. That’s exactly what surgical leaders in the United States were able to do while overseeing surgeons training in Paraguay and Brazil with the help of UCLA doctors and Google Glass.

UCLA surgeon Dr. David Chen and surgical resident Dr. Justin Wagner have made it their mission to teach hernia surgery around the world and are harnessing the latest technologies to help.

“Hernia repair is the most common operation performed worldwide,” said Chen, assistant clinical professor of general surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “From a global health perspective, it is as cost-effective as immunizations because it allows patients to regain function and resume work and other daily activities.”

It is also an easily teachable procedure that lends itself to the advent of this kind of technology, according to Chen, associate director of surgical education and clinical director of the Lichtenstein Amid Hernia Clinic at UCLA.

The team used Google Glass, which is worn like conventional glasses, but houses a tiny computer the size of a Scrabble tile outfitted with a touch-pad display screen and high-definition camera that can connect wirelessly to stream live.

With Chen and Wagner’s help, local surgeons at a hospital in Paraguay in late May wore Google Glass while performing adult surgeries to repair a common type of hernia in which an organ or fatty tissue protrudes through a weak area of the abdominal wall in the groin. This type of hernia is commonly found in both children and adults.

Through Google Glass, the surgeries were viewed “live” via wireless streaming in the United States to a select group of leading surgeons who could watch and oversee the procedures. The experts could also transmit their comments to the surgeon, who could read them on the Google Glass monitor. The surgeries are also being archived for later training purposes as well. Chen added that the educational program ensures competency and quality of the operations.

“We are one of the first to use Google Glass in teaching and training surgeons from outside a country,” said Chen. And he says hernia surgery is just the beginning.

“Our goal is to utilize the latest technologies like Google Glass, Facebook and Twitter in connecting everyone in medicine worldwide for educational purposes that can help improve medical care in resource-poor countries,” said Chen. “These cost-effective applications can ultimately be used for other surgical procedures and medical training as well.”

The UCLA team also visited Brazil, where they used Google Glass during three hernia surgeries and also streamed a live debriefing session afterwards. The team plans to train 15 surgeons from around the country in September. These surgeons will then become trainers to teach other surgeons at several regional hospitals for underserved patients. Similar programs will be implemented in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Ecuador this fall.

These training projects are part of an educational arm of Hernia Repair for the Underserved, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free hernia surgery to children and adults in the Western Hemisphere. Chen, who serves on the organization’s board, is spearheading these educational projects with the UCLA team to help “train the trainers” and increase the number of surgeons performing this procedure in underprivileged countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Chen and Wagner also work closely with UCLA’s Center for Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology (CASIT) in developing new ways to help educate doctors remotely.

They have even streamed surgical lectures to Haiti from UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica.

“We are developing practical applications for these technologies so that surgeons in any setting can have access to the global surgical community from within their own operating rooms,” said Wagner. “Even after the training is over, local surgeons can be teleproctored remotely so they will remain connected to experts worldwide.”

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UC Davis faculty share cancer research innovation with partners in Spain

Workshop in Madrid runs June 12-14.

Ralph de Vere White, UC Davis

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers take center stage this week in Madrid during the second in a series of workshops designed to enhance cultural, academic, scientific and business relations between UC Davis and Madrid.

Cancer center Director Ralph de Vere White will share the podium with Primo Lara, Julie Sutcliffe and Luis Carvajal in presentations on cancer imaging and diagnosis and improving patient outcomes in oncology through clinical and translational research initiatives. The Cancer and Regenerative Medicine Life Sciences Workshop runs June 12-14.

The global partnership was organized by the UC Davis School of Education and Office of Research with the Madrid Network, comprising more than 750 businesses, research centers and universities. The network, focused on innovation, represents the Madrid region’s government, Comunidad de Madrid, in the agreement with UC Davis.

De Vere White, a distinguished professor of urology, will give an overview on the comprehensive cancer center and its role in improving survival rates in patients with advanced disease. Specifically, he said, he will focus on the center’s partnership with Jackson Laboratories (JAX West), an National Cancer Institute-designated cancer research facility, to find more targeted treatments for bladder cancer using a mouse model capable of growing human tumors.

De Vere White said he hopes to interest counterparts in Spain to cooperate in research that can advance and quicken the pace of development and clinical use of more precise cancer therapies. He likened the potential of the collaboration to the international approach to finding drugs to control the virus that causes AIDS.

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Videos highlight UC Global Health Day

Talks from fourth annual event available on UCTV.

Julea Vlassakis from UC Berkeley leads a demonstration in the breakout session entitled, "Innovation and Infrastructure for Slum Health: Advancing Technology to Work in Low-Resource Settings." (Photo by Robert Durell)

Videos of the keynote presentations from the fourth annual University of California Global Health Day are now available for streaming on UCTV.

More than 400 people attended the 2014 UC Global Health Day at UC Davis on April 26. The event was sponsored by the UC Global Health Institute, with support from UC Davis’ Office of the Chancellor, School of Veterinary Medicine and School of Medicine.

The event featured presentations from faculty and students across the 10-campus UC system on topics ranging from global health diplomacy, maternal and child health, animal health, emerging infectious diseases, economics, migrant health, and more. Keynote presenters included UC President Janet Napolitano, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, USC Institute for Global Health Director Jonathan Samet, and UC Davis professors Jonna Mazet and Andrew Hargadon.

Visit the UC Global Health Institute website for more information, including submissions to the Global Health Video Challenge and a photo collage with some of the highlights of the day.

The 2015 UC Global Health Day will take place at UCLA.

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Research targets three neglected tropical diseases

UC, partner researchers receive $6M to target Chagas’ disease, dengue, onchocerciasis.

Researchers at UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley and partner institutions are receiving $6 million to speed development of new tools and technologies that will address three neglected tropical diseases that place a huge health and economic burden on people in Central and South America: Chagas’ disease, dengue and onchocerciasis.

Led by scientists at UCSF Global Health Sciences and funded jointly by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Instituto Carlos Slim de la Salud (the Carlos Slim Health Institute), the two-year project is titled FIRST (Fighting Infections through Research, Science, and Technology). The research, which is already under way, will focus on Mesoamerica, which comprises the Southern states of Mexico and Central America from Guatemala to Panama. A significant number of people, mainly of indigenous descent, live in poverty in these countries, making them vulnerable to illness and death.

FIRST promises to address three diseases that collectively affect billions of people worldwide, and have significant health and economic effects, by helping to find better treatments, more effective vaccines and other ways to prevent them.

“We are selecting projects that will give us quick wins, allowing us to make a huge impact immediately, as well as game-changing, high-risk research that will make a significant impact in the long term,” said Jaime Sepulveda, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc., Dr.Sc., the executive director of UCSF Global Health Sciences.

“Although transmission of onchocerciasis has been interrupted in Mesoamerica, many indigenous communities are still at high-risk because current treatments do not kill the adult worms,” said Jim McKerrow, the principal investigator on the onchocerciasis project and a UCSF professor of pathology. “We will carry out a clinical trial with collaborators in Cameroon and the UK to determine whether Auranofin, an FDA approved drug, can be repurposed as a macrofilaricide to kill adult worms.”

The aims of the other projects in the FIRST portfolio include developing:

  • Low-cost diagnostic tools for early detection of dengue
  • Information systems that will provide early warnings of dengue outbreaks
  • New tests to guide dengue vaccine development
  • A cell phone app for crowdsourcing mosquito control
  • New, less toxic drugs for Chagas’ disease
  • Better biomarkers to monitor treatment of Chagas’ disease.

In addition to UCSF, researchers whose work will be funded by this project are affiliated with Blood Systems Research Institute, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Sustainable Sciences Institute in San Francisco and Nicaragua, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, University of North Carolina, and University of Sao Paulo.

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UC Davis, Orbis partner in telemedicine initiative

Alliance will work to treat, prevent blindness in the developing world.

Today, UC Davis Health System and Orbis International, a leading global non-governmental organization (NGO) that works to eliminate avoidable blindness, signed an agreement of cooperation that will expand the use of telemedicine technology to help treat and prevent blindness in the developing world.

The new alliance, which features the expertise of the UC Davis Center for Health and Technology and the UC Davis Eye Center, paves the way for developing new research, education and telehealth collaborations to advance vision science and eye care on a global scale.

The World Health Organization estimates that 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide. This includes 39 million individuals who are blind and 246 million who have low vision. About 90 percent of the world’s visually impaired live in developing countries, and 80 percent of all cases of visual impairment can be avoided or cured. These include refractive errors, cataracts and glaucoma, the leading causes of visual impairment worldwide.

Through the agreement, UC Davis specialists in telemedicine, information technology, ophthalmology, anesthesiology and nursing will work with Orbis on initiatives such as  staff development, fellowships and programs on the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital — a fully equipped mobile teaching hospital on board a DC-10 jet. Trainees will have opportunities for hands-on training in the UC Davis Center for Health and Technology simulation center and Orbis’s telehealth program for real-time surgical demonstrations.

“Orbis is honored to join in this agreement with the UC Davis Eye Center,” said Jenny Hourihan, president and chief executive officer of Orbis. “UC Davis is such an impressive partner and dedicated in helping to make quality eye health accessible while advancing programs and technology used in eye health worldwide. We are excited to collaborate and share tools and resources to expand the reach and influence that telehealth has in preventing and treating avoidable blindness.”

The project includes establishing telehealth links that will transmit live broadcasts of eye surgeries at UC Davis to virtual classrooms in remote regions in the developing world with the opportunity for trainees thousands of miles away to ask questions of surgeons in real time. It also will explore live e-consultations with partners around the world and further Orbis’s ongoing efforts to establish an open-source ophthalmic electronic medical record system, which will help develop a more robust e-health infrastructure, provide access to increased decision-making support and offer researchers a wealth of global data.

“Advances in telecommunications technologies and broadband capacity in developing countries has created new opportunities to improve training for physicians, nurses and other members of the health care team and expanded access to health care services among the world’s most vulnerable populations,” said Thomas Nesbitt, associate vice chancellor for strategic technologies and alliances at UC Davis. “By partnering with Orbis, a recognized pioneer in establishing sustainable, quality eye health care worldwide, we are leveraging UC Davis’ expertise in telehealth and distance learning to have a profound impact on global health.”

Orbis works to bring quality eye care to communities by building capacity with local partners to develop infrastructure, trained staff and, ultimately, sustainable eye care services. Since 1982, Orbis has carried out programs in 92 countries, enhanced the skills of more than 325,000 eye care professionals, and provided medical and optical treatments to more than 23.3 million adults and children. Since 2006, nearly 20 UC Davis faculty and staff have participated in 14 medical missions, traveling to China, Vietnam, Peru, Indonesia, India, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Zambia and Panama.

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Why dengue fever prevention efforts often fail

Twelve-year study provides insights.

Studies on dengue fever infections took UC Davis researcher Robert Reiner (foreground) to Iquitos, Peru.

Newly published research involving a 12-year study of dengue infections in Iquitos, Peru, helps explain why interventions to prevent the mosquito-borne disease are frequently unsuccessful.

The research, headed by professor Thomas Scott of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is published today (May 19) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Defining variation in the risk of dengue transmission has been a roadblock to understanding disease dynamics and designing more realistic and effective disease prevention programs,” said Scott, a noted dengue researcher and a senior author of the paper, “Time-Varying, Serotype-Specific Force of Infection of Dengue Virus.”

“This study is an important step toward overcoming that obstacle,” Scott said. “We hope our results will help reduce the burden of this increasingly devastating disease.”

Dengue, a mosquito-borne virus infecting nearly 400 million people a year, is difficult to model not only because the majority of all infections are hidden, but also because there are four distinct serotypes, or versions, of dengue, each having unique characteristics, said lead author Robert Reiner, a Research and Policy for Infectious Disease Dynamics (RAPIDD) postdoctoral fellow in Scott’s Mosquito Research Laboratory.

“Typically, most infections go unnoticed and as such, measuring and modeling transmission intensity is problematic,” Reiner said.

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Harvey Fineberg named UCSF Presidential Chair

Departing Institute of Medicine chief will focus on global health during yearlong appointment.

Harvey Fineberg

Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.P., the president of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), will come to UC San Francisco for a yearlong appointment as a Presidential Chair beginning in September.

Fineberg is a public health expert with a particular interest in health policy and medical decision making. He has been head of the IOM, which is the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, for two full terms, and will step down at the end of June. Before that, Fineberg spent many years at Harvard University; first as a college and medical student, and later as a faculty member, dean of the School of Public Health and provost of the University.

At UCSF, Fineberg will write and lecture about global health policy and analysis. He will be the keynote speaker at the UCSF Science of Global Health symposium on Oct. 2, which coincides with GHS’s 10-year anniversary and the opening of Mission Hall, the new building at UCSF Mission Bay where global health, clinical and other faculty will have offices.

“UCSF is an extraordinary place, and I am very pleased to come and join its global health faculty,” Fineberg said. “It is one of the nation’s premier biomedical centers, and it has become a first-class center for global health as well.”

Fineberg was invited to UCSF by Jaime Sepulveda, executive director of UCSF Global Health Sciences (GHS), as well as Sam Hawgood, M.B.B.S., dean of the School of Medicine and interim chancellor, and David Vlahov, R.N., Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing. Sepulveda and Fineberg have known each other since the 1980s, when Sepulveda was a graduate student at the Harvard School of Public Health. They later edited a book together about HIV prevention.

“Harvey is one of the most respected and influential leaders in academic medicine, and we at UCSF are extremely fortunate to have him as a visiting professor,” Sepulveda said. “I owe him a lot. He has been my mentor for decades, and he’s also a mentor to many others.”

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Blum Center conference examines health inequities, solutions in Latin America

Despite improvements, childhood malnutrition, anemia, vaccine delivery problems persist.

Dr. Michael Rodriguez directs the UCLA Blum Center on Poverty and Health in Latin America.

Health has improved for Latin Americans in recent decades but Ferdinando Regalia, chief of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Social Protection and Health Division, reminded attendees at the second annual UCLA Blum Center Conference why there’s still more work to be done.

He spoke about an indigenous 16-year-old woman in rural Panama who just last year gave birth to a stillborn child, an outcome that could have been prevented if she had received treatment at a health clinic.

Regalia said it was “one of the thousands of deaths that happen every day in silence without witnesses, but with the same pain and affliction as (if we’re talking) about our daughters, wives and friends.”

“Let’s not forget about their babies,” he told the audience gathered to hear opening remarks at the conference organized by the UCLA Blum Center for Health and Poverty in Latin America.

The conference drew approximately 150 attendees, including health ministry and other government and community officials from 10 Latin American nations, on Tuesday and Wednesday to hear about health issues in the region as well as solutions.

Cindy Fan, UCLA vice provost for international studies, also spoke during the conference’s opening remarks, noting that the university has at least 150 faculty members in 28 academic fields that work on Latin American research. Units such as the Latin American Institute and the Blum Center are also focused on the region.

“The (Blum) Center seeks to anticipate policy changes and devise strategies to improve health and reduce poverty and address and combat inequities among disadvantaged populations and these are really important missions that a campus like UCLA is embracing,” she added.

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