TAG: "Students"

Act of courage: Life after the ‘die-in’


UCSF med students sparked a national movement with #whitecoats4blacklives; what’s next?

UC San Francisco professional students led a national movement via social media that examined how racial disparities impact health care. (Photo by Leland Kim, UC San Francisco)

By Leland Kim and Laura Kurtzman, UC San Francisco

A group of UCSF medical students gathered in a closed meeting last month to talk about race, racism and racial disparities.

They were troubled by recent grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers who were involved in the deaths of two unarmed African American men, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York City, and wanted to channel their frustration into something constructive.

The students, including many from the UCSF Underrepresented In Medicine (UIM) mentoring program, decided to hold a “die-in” at UCSF while wearing their white coats, symbolic of those in the health profession. They and their peers of all ethnic backgrounds tapped into student networks across the country.

In just five days, a national movement called #whitecoats4blacklives was born.

It catalyzed thousands of students, faculty and staff in more than 80 colleges across the country. At UCSF, students from all professional schools (dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy) and the Graduate Division participated, as well as some faculty and staff members.

The hashtag dominated social media on Dec. 10, garnering widespread media attention and sparking a much-needed national conversation about racism being more than a just criminal justice issue.

Organizers of the student #whitecoats4blacklives die-in were invited to participate in the School of Medicine leadership retreat to share their experiences. (From left) Frederick Jamison, Angela Broad, Faby Molina, Adali Martinez, Donald Richards, Stephen Villa, Sidra Bonner and Nicolás Barceló. (Photo by Elisabeth Fall)

“As students, we were able to use the momentum from the #whitecoats4blacklives movement to demonstrate the urgency of dealing with the issues of race, micro-aggressions and inequality that affects UCSF faculty, staff, students and most importantly the patients we all serve,” said student organizer Sidra Bonner, a second-year student in the School of Medicine. “It is my hope that this movement leads to improvement of the social medicine curriculum, specifically continued learning and skill development around this issue of bias, creation of a robust mentorship/advising system for all students, as well as commitment to strengthening the pipeline for underrepresented students in medicine by increased availability of scholarships and administrative support.”

A priority for the university

The die-in had a ripple effect across UCSF.

A student-initiated town hall held two days after attracted faculty members, deans and many of the University’s top leaders, who talked openly with students about the UCSF’s ongoing challenge with diversity.

Chancellor Sam Hawgood, M.B.B.S., has made race and racial inequities a priority in his administration.

“This is an issue that goes beyond any one school or department; this is a campus issue,” he said. “Diversity is going to be an important priority for the entire UCSF community. I thank our students for initiating this conversation.”

And organizers of the School of Medicine’s annual leadership retreat this month decided to change the event’s agenda to discuss the enduring question of race in America – and how racial dynamics play out at UCSF.

“Our students are asking us to acknowledge, to think and to do something about the problem of racial and ethnic injustices,” said Bruce Wintroub, M.D., interim dean of the School of Medicine, introducing a daylong colloquy that was rich in both data and personal stories about what it means to be black and brown in America.

“It is very easy to talk about racial disparities at other places,” he said. “It is much harder for us to take an honest look at the problems we have at UCSF.”

Groundbreaking discussion of race

The leadership retreat, which took place on Jan. 8 and 9, was the first one ever to focus solely on race/ethnicity and health disparities. It came as the School of Medicine has launched a six-year, $9.6 million effort to hold its departments accountable for achieving diversity, provide the resources to recruit and retain a more diverse faculty, create a culture of diversity and inclusion and expand the pool of scientific talent, which gets smaller at each level of training.

“This retreat was the first time in my 32 years at UCSF that I feel we have started to have an authentic conversation about race and the impact of racism and unconscious bias on our students, faculty and patients,” said Renee Navarro, M.D., Pharm.D., vice chancellor of diversity and outreach. “I applaud the students who organized and implemented the #whitecoats4blacklives movement. They were the spark that led to this event.”

Some of those students were invited to participate in the leadership retreat and share their experiences with the group to help facilitate organizational change.

At times, nervous energy was palpable as students recalled instances of racism on campus. Some community members, participants noted, have accused UCSF being an “elitist ivory tower.”

White faculty members listened attentively, and some were candid enough to admit that they hadn’t really thought about racism and its impact on students and patients in a meaningful way.

“Being on the panel and speaking to an audience of accomplished and powerful people at UCSF were terrifying,” said Angela Broad, a second-year medical student. “It was really difficult sharing those experiences but the informal conversations I had throughout the day were very heartening. So many faculty, deans and staff thanked me for sharing my story.”

Compelling presentations and anecdotes by faculty of color helped shape the day’s conversation.

Neal Powe, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., vice chair of the Department of Medicine and chief of medical services at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, shared a story about being pulled over by the police in North Carolina while in town to give a lecture. A police officer suspiciously questioned Powe about his destination, instructed him to keep his hands on the steering wheel and asked him if he had drugs in the car.

Guest speaker Denise Rodgers, M.D., focused on the impact of race and racism on health and health care in her talk, helping the audience to understand how a climate of violence affects their patients and their health.

“When we teach about homicide, do we reinforce the stereotype of violent, lawless black men who should be feared and for whom there is little hope for change?” asked Rodgers, vice chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. “When we teach about homicide, do we talk about poverty, unemployment, poorly-performing schools, inadequate access to social and mental health services as contributors to the homicide rates we see?”

Nurturing a pipeline of UCSF talent

This year, one-third of first-year medical students are underserved minorities (black, Latino, Native American or Pacific Islander), the highest percentage of any medical school in California.

Despite having one of the most diverse student populations in the nation, a recent survey found that nearly one-third of students who are black, Latino and Native American reported feeling shunned or ignored or having experienced behavior they found intimidating, offensive or hostile, and 21 percent said it interfered with their ability to learn. That was double the percentage reported by whites and a third higher than reported by Asians.

Talmadge King, M.D., chair of the Department of Medicine, said the medical school is doing well at recruiting students, but many are not staying for their residency training.

Retention drops more at the fellowship training level and then essentially stops at the faculty level. Similar statistics also apply to the other professional schools and the Graduate Division.

King believes the best long-term strategy is for UCSF to build its own pipeline of talent, beginning with middle and high school, so students learn to love science and have an association to UCSF. “Places that have really focused on that are beginning to have success,” he said. ”It takes a long time, but it actually works.”

Turning words into action

UCSF leadership will review and evaluate ideas that were generated by the retreat participants and determine the priorities and tactics to move them forward. This effort is aligned with the campus obligation to the University of California Office of the President to identify initiatives in the UC-wide Climate Survey. Those initiatives will include one that is focused on establishing a “climate of inclusion.”

Meanwhile, the students who organized the #whitecoats4blacklives event have formalized the creation of the national White Coats for Black Lives organization that was born out of the movement. They are connected with 83 representatives of various medical schools throughout the country and are in the process of creating a national board for their student organization.

They will also be actively involved in working with faculty and leadership to achieve the goals identified during the leadership retreat.

“I have never felt so inspired by UCSF – what it is and what it can be,” said student organizer Nicolás Barceló, a fourth-year medical student who attended the retreat. “My decision to attend UCSF was motivated by the belief that its capacity to effectively address the social determinants of health, it stands alone. No other institution can bring together the resources, talent and dedication to social justice that you see at UCSF. No one.”

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Cuba opens doors to its health care system for visiting nursing students


Cubans embrace UCLA visitors after news of closer ties between two countries.

Students and faculty from the UCLA School of Nursing visit Casa de Maternidad, a maternity home for women with high-risk pregnancies.

By Laura Perry, UCLA

The timing couldn’t have been better for 18 UCLA School of Nursing graduate students and two faculty members headed for Cuba on an educational mission. As they were boarding a flight to Havana from Miami on Dec. 17, big news was breaking: The U.S. was re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, mending a break that has lasted more than 50 years.

One hour later, the UCLA group arrived in Havana, where they were greeted with exuberant hugs, kisses and tears of joy by an excited group of Cuban health leaders over the historic turn of events.

That was the auspicious beginning of a five-day, action-packed visit for the UCLA group. To learn about Cuba’s health care system, they met with physician-nurse teams, engaged in Pan American Health Organization-based discussions on major causes of illness and death, among other topics; and visited community-based consultorios, polyclinics and sex education centers as well as nursing and medical schools.

Eager to see different health care settings, they spent time at a home for seniors and a residence where women with high-risk pregnancies went to live to receive special care.

Ties between Westwood and Havana

This was not the first time that UCLA nurses have connected with their counterparts in Cuba. In 2011, Maria Elena Ruiz, assistant adjunct professor at the school, attended an International Health Conference in Cuba as a member of the American Public Health Association. Through those meetings, she saw firsthand how a first-world, prevention-focused primary health care system functions with third-world economics.

When she returned to UCLA, Ruiz, together with Adey Nyamathi, associate dean for international research and scholarly activities, developed a program that would provide similar experiences for nursing students, who would receive partial credit for a public health course, complete required readings, participate in pre- and post- conferences, and write daily reflective papers.

How do they do it?

Cuba, the UCLA nurses learned during their visit last December, is a third-world country with some impressive health outcomes, including an overall life expectancy that rivals that in the U.S. (78.4 years for Cubans versus 78.6 years for Americans), immunization rates that are nearly 100 percent and low infant mortality. Yet their health care costs per capita are nearly 15 times lower than that of the United States.

Primary care and an emphasis on prevention are key to the success of the Cuban health care system.

“Their system shows how primary care really does work,” said student Vladimir Camarce.  “And when implemented correctly, you can see great outcomes. Historically, the U.S. system has been focused on acute and tertiary care, but we are now starting to see a shift with the Affordable Care Act.”

In Cuba, public service announcements about health are shown daily on television. “They don’t have traditional television commercials like we do here, so the government uses the opportunity to deliver messages about hygiene or reminders on vaccines,” observed student Stephanie Phan.

Another reason for Cuba’s success is its focus on personalized, community-based care. Doctors and nurses work as a team and live in the communities they serve.  They might see patients in a clinic in the morning, said graduate student John Scholtz, and then visit patients who can’t get to the clinic at home “to ensure that they are receiving their checkups and following through with the recommendations.”

The students also noted the personal nature of health care in Cuba. “Patients are referred to by name,” said Phan, “not by ‘the patient in room 11′ …  They told us, ‘They’re not patients, they’re people.”

There is also a strong integration of traditional, herbal and western medicine. It’s all considered good health care. “I believe we should find a way to incorporate that integration into our practices because we do get a lot of patients who use complementary therapies,” said Camarce.

What amazed the students was that the Cubans achieve all this with a scarcity of equipment and health resources. “They don’t have the equipment we have, the technology we have or the pharmaceutical industry,” noted student Jacqueline Marroquin. “They make do with so little, but they are able to accomplish so much.”

“What medical equipment is available resembles a scene from the old MASH television series,” said Ruiz. “And yet we were overwhelmed with the kindness and eagerness of our hosts to share their health experiences with us.”

Also surprising: On average, nurses and doctors make only $20-$30 a month.  But their education and housing are free or subsidized, and they don’t have student loans to pay off.

“In the U.S., you wouldn’t have a lot of people pursuing these professions for that kind of pay,” said Scholtz. “But in Cuba, you have a lot of people interested in being doctors or nurses. They go into it because they want to make a difference in their community.”

Part of the reason why the Cuban system works is the collectivist-based culture and the population perspective, the students said. Many things that have been adapted in Cuba, however, wouldn’t work in the U.S.  “We might be able to integrate some of the ideas in a micro-community,” suggested Marroquin.

Leaving behind impressions — and hand sanitizers

While the students were there to learn, they also taught Cubans something about Americans.  “Our interactions showed them that we were open to ideas and willing to learn from them,” said Scholtz. On a more tangible note, the group left behind hand sanitizers.  And pens. Lots of them.  “There is a real need for basic hygienic supplies, everything we take for granted,” added Ruiz.

But more importantly, the UCLA visitors came away with a new resolve. “As nursing students, as nurses, we really need to understand what is going on across our borders,” said Marroquin.

Nyamathi added:  “These students are now motivated to make a difference, to learn more about other countries and to question our health system, health care costs, disparities, and what we can learn from others to improve health and health care in the U.S.”

It’s also a hope that, with the dawning of warmer relationships with Cuba, the U. S. health care community may be able to learn a lot more from their neighbor, they said.

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Student-led project explores healing benefits of live music


Mindful Music is part of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, promoting healthy living.

Student musicians perform in a courtyard at the Center for Health Sciences as part of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative’s Mindful Music program. (Photo by Dalida Arakelian)

By Rebecca Kendall, UCLA

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what might a daily dose of Mozart or Thelonious Monk do for one’s health and well-being?

A cross-disciplinary group of UCLA students is hoping to find out. Presenting a series of weekly 30-minute concerts, Mindful Music, a new community project featuring some of UCLA’s most talented music students, aims to shed light on how music impacts personal stress levels.

Mindful Music is part of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, a program envisioned and funded by philanthropists Terry and Jane Semel. The initiative draws upon UCLA’s world-renowned research and teaching to find new and innovative ways to promote healthy living on the UCLA campus, and shares what is learned with other communities locally and beyond.

Mindful Music performances are held Wednesdays between 12:15-12:45 p.m. Throughout January the weekly concerts will be held in a courtyard outside Cafe Med, located in the Center for Health Sciences (CHS). In February, the concerts will be held in the Powell Library rotunda. In March they will move to the UCLA School of Law.

“The Healthy Campus Initiative aligns very well with what we’re trying to do, which is help people feel emotionally better,” said Sean Dreyer, a second-year medical student who serves as the project’s research director. Dreyer is one of seven student directors working on the project.

The goals of Mindful Music, said program founder Dalida Arakelian, who graduated from UCLA with a degree in economics and public health last spring, are to lower stress levels; improve listeners’ mood and alleviate anxiety; provide a positive, shared experience among UCLA students, staff, faculty and visitors; and be the basis of a community research project that links music to scientific research.

“We spend a lot of time studying, and we’re very overworked,” said Dreyer, referring to students who are  pursuing degrees in medicine, dentistry, nursing and public health. They currently make up a large portion of the audiences attending the CHS-based concerts.

“You always feel that there’s more you can be doing. There’s never that satisfaction that you’re done for the day,” he added.

Second-year medical student Laura Obler has already been to several Mindful Music events. For her, it’s the perfect break in the day, allowing her the freedom to slow down, not think about classes and just enjoy some great free live music with friends.

“I enjoy musical performances, but, given my busy schedule and student budget, it is difficult for me to attend shows regularly,” said Obler. “Mindful Music is a wonderful thing because it brings those performances to me. I get the chance to spend my lunch listening to music performed by talented members of our Bruin community at no cost. By the end of lunch, I feel happier, refreshed and ready to take on my afternoon courses.”

Obler also said that she appreciates the sense of community the noon-hour concerts provide. “There are not many events that bring students, staff, faculty and visitors of CHS together, and this provides the setting for us to get to know each other better.”

To date, the program, which launched at the beginning of fall quarter, has featured classical, jazz and bluegrass groups.

Following each performance, audience members are asked to complete a short six-question stress survey that asks questions about their feelings over the past month and about their mood before and after the musical performance.

“We hope to see lower reported stress on days when we’re there,” said Dreyer, who hopes to start examining the data once he receives about 1,000 surveys or more.

Dreyer said he hopes that the research will help determine the impact that a program like this can have on people and their moods. Should it prove a positive link, he and Arakelian will explore how the program can be expanded across campus and possibly launched by other postsecondary institutions and communities as a low-cost public health intervention program.

Dreyer said the connection between mind and body is a strong one, and that psychology can play an important role in preventing illness and alleviating symptoms.

“Beyond just treating patients, it’s important to address psychological factors that may contribute to physical ailments and the stresses that go along with being sick or having a disease,” said Dreyer. “There have been a lot of studies that have shown that music can have an impact on stress, anxiety and depression — a lot of things related to mood.”

Learn more here.

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Common human protein linked to adverse parasitic worm infections


UC Riverside-led research could lead to new therapies for parasitic worm infections.

Hookworms infect the lung and cause severe inflammation. This image shows immunofluorescent staining of infected mouse lung tissue for worm antigen (green), worm and macrophage bound lectin (red) and cell nuclei (blue). (Credit: Nair Lab, UC Riverside)

By Kathy Barton, UC Riverside

Worm infections represent a major global public health problem, leading to a variety of debilitating diseases and conditions, such as anemia, elephantiasis, growth retardation and dysentery. Several drugs are available to treat worm infections, but reinfection is high especially in developing countries.

Now, scientists at UC Riverside and colleagues around the world have made a discovery, reported in this month’s issue of PLOS Pathogens, that could lead to more effective diagnostic and treatment strategies for worm infections and their symptoms. The researchers found that resistin, an immune protein commonly found in human serum, instigates an inappropriate inflammatory response to worm infections, impairing the clearance of the worm.

“Targeting this inflammatory pathway with drugs or antibodies could be a new therapeutic strategy to treat worm infections and the associated pathology,” said Meera Nair, an assistant professor of biomedical sciences in the UC Riverside School of Medicine, whose laboratory made the discovery.  “Additionally, our data point to the diagnostic potential for resistin as a new biomarker for impaired immune responses to worms.”

Jessica Jang, the lead author of the research paper and a third-year UCR graduate student in microbiology, explained that resistin regulates the recruitment of innate immune cells called monocytes to the site of infection to produce inflammatory cytokines (small proteins that are important in cell signaling).

“Future work in my Ph.D. research will focus on further investigating the activation of monocytes so we can clinically exploit this immune pathway,” she said.

Parasitic worms, known scientifically as helminths, include filarial worms and hookworms. They cause diseases such as elephantiasis, which produces extreme swelling of extremities, and necatoriasis, which causes abdominal pain, diarrhea and weight loss. The infections are often associated with life-long morbidity, including malnutrition, growth retardation and organ failure.

In many developing countries where parasitic worms are prevalent due to substandard sanitation facilities, infections in humans are common, as are reinfections. Some infected patients develop immunity, but others remain susceptible to infections when they are re-exposed or develop chronic infections. Currently, no vaccine is available against human worm pathogens.

The research directed by Nair’s lab combined mouse studies with human data to demonstrate that resistin is actually detrimental, causing excessive inflammation that impedes the body’s ability to clear parasitic worms.

In the animal studies, mice containing the gene expressing human resistin and infected with a parasitic worm similar to the human hookworm experienced excessive inflammation, leading to increased weight loss and other symptoms. Clinical samples from two groups of individuals from the south Pacific island of Mauke and from Ecuador – one group infected with filarial worms causing lymphatic filariasis and a second group infected with intestinal roundworms Ascaris – revealed increased levels of resistin in the infected individuals compared to those who were uninfected or immune.

A better understanding of human resistin may also reveal new knowledge about obesity and diabetes. Resistin has been mapped to the pathway of immune-mediated inflammation that promotes diabetes and other obesity-related disorders and Nair hopes to combine her lab’s basic science expertise with the developing clinical research enterprise in the UCR medical school as a future avenue to research new diagnostic or treatment strategies.

Collaborating in the study were scientists from: the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in New Zealand; Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador in Quito, Ecuador; St. George’s University of London; the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases at the National Institutes of Health; and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Funding for the research at UCR was provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, the Division of Biomedical Sciences (UCR School of Medicine) and a UCR Academic Senate Regents Faculty Fellowship.

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Students resolve to give back


A UC Irvine student-run free clinic opens in Garden Grove to treat underserved patients.

A new, student-run free clinic opens in Garden Grove to treat underserved patients. (Photo by Zach Ferguson, UC Irvine)

By Laura Rico, UC Irvine

Along with losing the holiday waistline and upping the exercise quotient, UC Irvine Anteaters are making resolutions of a different nature this New Year. They’re pledging to make a difference in their communities, and a shining example is the launch of a student-run teaching health clinic in Garden Grove.

Under the supervision of Dr. Baotran Vo, a family medicine and primary care specialist with UC Irvine Health, first- and second-year UCI medical students will staff the clinic. Undergrads will shadow the medical students and handle administrative duties, such as ordering supplies.

Students raised funds to open the free clinic – which began as an undergraduate club project – partly by selling banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches), hot dogs and hot chocolate on Ring Mall.

Garden Grove residents and UCI students and faculty celebrated the Lestonnac Free Clinic’s grand opening Dec. 13 at the Garden Grove United Methodist Church.

Open every other Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., the clinic is at 12747 Main St.

The effort is just one of many ways UCI is serving the community. The campus recently launched its Fifty for 50 program to promote volunteerism and civic engagement. Participants pledge to donate 50 or more hours of their time and talent over the university’s two-year 50th anniversary period.

The goal is to reach 50,000 hours of volunteer service. Students at the Garden Grove free clinic are off to a healthy start!

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UC students bring attention to impact of racial disparities in health care


Students stage “white coat die-ins” nationwide, including at UCSF, other UC medical schools.

UC San Francisco professional students led a national movement via social media that examined how racial disparities impact health care. (Photo by Leland Kim, UC San Francisco)

By Leland Kim, UC San Francisco

A group of UCSF School of Medicine students started a nationwide movement to bring attention to the impact of racial disparities in health care. They led more than 2,000 students in 80 medical schools across the country in a “white coat die-in” where they lay down in their white coats to protest recent grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, unarmed African American men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, respectively.

At UCSF, more than 150 students and some faculty and staff members gathered in front of the UCSF Parnassus Library at noon on Dec. 10. Making sure not to block the sidewalk or entrance to the library, they lay down for 45 minutes in silence. Many closed their eyes. Some held hands.

“As health professional students, we really want to emphasize the fact that what happens in the community bears relation to what happens in our work,” said event organizer Nicolás Barceló, a fourth-year student in UCSF School of Medicine. “The context in which our patients live contextualizes the type of care we need to provide.”

This movement started at UCSF several weeks before the “die-in” when a core group of students of color in the UCSF Underrepresented In Medicine (UIM) program, and their white allies within the School of Medicine, worked with established networks of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), the Latino Medical Students Association (LMSA), and the PRIME Program of UC medical schools to raise awareness. Soon after the hashtag #whitecoat4blacklives was born.

“Using social media as the primary driver, and with the help of incredible individuals, many of whom we had never met, our idea became a shared cause,” said Barceló. “Students at UPenn were responsible for creating the national Facebook group. The national press release disseminated through Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), which was a product of the collaboration between students from UCSF, UPenn, Brown and Mt Sinai. The artwork of white coats becoming flying doves – perhaps most symbolic of the movement –was created by a student at UCSF.”

The School of Medicine-led event also included participation by students in the School of Dentistry, School of Nursing and School of Pharmacy. Students from other UC medical schools also participated at their locations. The hashtag #WhiteCoats4BlackLives generated close to 2,000 posts or mentions on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on the day of the event, reaching more than one million people. It was covered by local and national media, including MSNBC, the Huffington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle.

“This movement is particularly important because in the end we’re here to advocate for our patients, to be the voice for those who are not heard,” said Daniela Brissett, a second-year School of Medicine student who helped organize the event. “Health care disparities for people of color are ever growing and we need to change that. It’s the responsibility of us, as well as our faculty and our deans. And it starts here, and it starts with the resources we need to provide for our patients.”

Some faculty members and members of the leadership team, including Renee Navarro, Pharm.D., M.D., vice chancellor of diversity and outreach, came out to support the students.

“It’s been an incredible catalyst to bring together students,” said Barceló . “We couldn’t be more grateful for the support we’ve received from our administration, from our Vice Chancellor Dr. Renee Navarro.”

“I am inspired by our students,” Navarro said. “I’m inspired by our collaboration, the solidarity across our schools, across our faculty, our students and our staff coming together on such a critically important issue, and recognizing as deliverers of health care, this is such an important component of what we do and we should have a voice in this.”

As a follow up, the student organizers of the “die-in” scheduled a town hall meeting on Dec. 12 at Cole Hall to share reflections on violence and racial bias in the community as well as in the health care system. They also brainstormed ideas for organized student response with several deans and some faculty members.

“We look forward to having productive conversations with leadership here at UCSF and other UC campuses to amend our curriculum, to increase diversity both in the students and in the faculty,” Barceló said. “Ultimately we want to improve relations between our institutions and the communities we serve.”

In the days following the “die-in,” several other college campuses in other parts of the country hosted town halls and open meetings to discuss and develop a plan for institutional change.

At the national level, student leaders of the movement are deciding how to proceed in effecting change. They hope to systematically reform the policies and practice of medicine to more adequately address racism and violence as major determinants to health.

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54 UC students awarded Global Food Initiative fellowships


$2,500 fellowships, selected by UC campuses, will fund student-generated research.

The University of California announced today (Dec. 9) that 54 UC students have been awarded UC Global Food Initiative fellowships, funding projects that will address issues ranging from community gardens and food pantries to urban agriculture and food waste.

All 10 UC campuses plus UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are participating in the UC President’s Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Program. The $2,500 fellowships to undergraduate and graduate students, selected by the campuses, will fund student-generated research, related projects or internships that focus on food issues. Also, plans are being developed for student fellows to convene in spring 2015.

“I want to congratulate the inaugural class of Global Food Initiative student fellows,” UC President Janet Napolitano said. “These are outstanding students who are passionate about this important global topic and will be able to make valuable contributions to this initiative through these fellowships. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of their projects.”

Napolitano, together with UC’s 10 chancellors, launched the Global Food Initiative in July in an effort to help put UC’s campuses, the state and the world on a pathway to sustainably and nutritiously feed themselves. The fellowships will support the work of the initiative’s early action teams and the initiative’s overall efforts to address food security, health and sustainability.

Fellowship projects will examine urban agriculture, sustainable campus landscapes, agricultural waste streams and biological pest control, among other topics. Some projects will enhance experiential learning, such as constructing new vegetable gardens. Others will support food pantries. Yet other projects will document research through films and social media.

The bulk of the fellowship funding comes from the UC President’s Initiative Fund, with several campuses augmenting the funding to support additional student fellowships.

In addition to the initial 54 student fellowships, further fellowships will be supported at UC Davis by a private donation from Craig McNamara, president and owner of walnut-producing Sierra Orchards, and his wife, Julie; and at UC Berkeley by donations from Joy Sterling, CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards, and Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters and the Edible Schoolyard Project. UC continues to reach out to the community for financial support of the fellowship program.

The initial student fellows and their projects include:

UC Berkeley

  • Kate Kaplan, experiential learning
  • Miranda Everitt, leveraging research for policy change
  • Vanessa Taylor, food pantries and food security

UC Davis

  • Ryan Dowdy, food system sustainability: converting food waste into electricity
  • Sophie Sapp Moore, food security for the Papaye Peasant Movement in Haiti
  • Jessica West, pest management of the spotted wing drosophila

UC Irvine

  • Victoria Lowerson Bredow, inclusive food systems: immigrants, indigeneity and innovation
  • Alexander Fung, food pantry initiative
  • Sally Geislar, local food access and advocacy: cultivating town and gown synergies
  • Crystal Hickerson, grow your own food campaign
  • Ankita Raturi, modeling the environmental impact of agricultural systems

UCLA

  • Sheela Bhongir, Kayee Liu, Vanessa Moreno and Robert Penna, “A Recipe for Change”: a short documentary film about the effects of food marketing in early childhood obesity
  • Sanna Alas, Phoebe Lai and Claudia Varney, “Down to Earth: Stories of Urban Gardeners in Los Angeles,” an ethnographic documentary film about Los Angeles County residents who grow food in community gardens
  • Hayley Ashbaugh, Lucie Dzongang, Adrienne Greer, Logan Hitchcock and Lindsey Jagoe, evaluation of impact and sustainability of farmer hubs selling to large institutions
  • Ian Davies, Kaylie Edgar, Steven Eggert and Ashley Lopez, curricula/food literacy garden project — constructing two new vegetable gardens

UC Merced

  • Hoaithi Dang, hydroponic farming
  • Erendira Estrada, evaluating the effects of a mobile grocery in addressing the lack of access to fresh foods in rural communities
  • Rebecca Quinte, sustainable agriculture in Central Valley food crops
  • Megan Schill, prions and food safety
  • Emily Wilson, endophytes and sustainable agriculture
  • Andrew Zumkehr, farmland mapping project

UC Riverside

  • Dietlinde Heilmayr, community gardens
  • Darrin Lin, California Agriculture and Food Enterprise website development
  • Daniel Lopez, on-campus food pantry

UC San Diego

  • Jancy Benavides, urban agriculture on brownfields
  • Hayden Galante, sustainable campus landscapes
  • Jane Kang, improving food and water security through urban ecology and participatory design
  • Danielle Ramirez, urban agriculture and civic engagement

UC San Francisco

  • Jacob Benjamin Mirsky, exploring patient perspectives on food insecurity to optimize the San Francisco General Hospital Therapeutic Food Pantry
  • Jonathan Schor, reinterpreting nutritional facts: a tool to inform consumer choices in the short term and food policy in the long term

UC Santa Barbara

  • Kathryn Parkinson and Emilie Wood, post-consumer food waste reduction
  • Rachel Rouse, food security and accessibility

UC Santa Cruz

  • Alyssa Billys, experiential learning and agroecological production
  • Joanna Ory, food equity and California Higher Education Food Summit engagement support
  • Crystal Owings, California Higher Education Food Summit planning support and planning to establish the Swipes program at UC Santa Cruz

Agriculture and Natural Resources

  • Jacqueline Chang, UC Berkeley, hunger survey of UC students
  • Kevi Mace-Hill, UC Berkeley, graduate student preparedness for Cooperative Extension
  • Samantha Smith, UC Davis, scientist interviews

Berkeley Lab

  • Kripa Akila Jagannathan, UC Berkeley, alignment of climate model outputs to farmers’ information needs
  • Michelle Stitzer, UC Davis, genomic annotations of maize
  • Gus Tolley, UC Davis, effects of prolonged drought on hydrologic conditions

Media contact:
University of California Office of the President
(510) 987-9200

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Traffic’s toll on the heart


Clogged interstates aggravate clogged arteries, according to UC Irvine research.

Credit: Jess Wheelock, UC Office of the President

By Nicole Freeling, UC Newsroom

Anyone who has experienced Los Angeles gridlock likely can attest that traffic may cause one’s blood pressure to rise. But UC Irvine researchers have found that, beyond the aggravation caused by fellow drivers, traffic-related air pollution presents serious heart health risks — not just for rush hour commuters, but for those who live and work nearby.

Research by UC Irvine joint M.D./Ph.D. student Sharine Wittkopp contributes to evidence that the increased air pollution generated by vehicle congestion causes blood pressure to rise and arteries to inflame, increasing incidents of heart attack and stroke for people who reside near traffic-prone areas.

“While the impact of traffic-related pollution on people with chronic lung diseases is well known, the link to adverse heart impacts has been less described,” said Wittkopp.

UC Irvine M.D./Ph.D. student Sharine Wittkopp is investigating genetic factors that make some people more vulnerable to pollution’s negative effects. (Photo courtesy of Sharine Wittkopp)

Her research project, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, focused on residents of a Los Angeles senior housing community who had coronary artery disease.

Study participants spend the vast majority of their time at home, which meant they had prolonged exposure to traffic-related air pollution at the site. Because of their age and pre-existing heart conditions, they were thought to be more vulnerable to small, day-to-day variations in air quality.

“They are really in the thick of it,” Wittkopp said. “They are the ones that are going to suffer the most, and who are the least likely to be resilient.”

Up to now, most studies on the impacts of air pollution have focused on its effects over much larger populations, with difficulty capturing accurate exposures and short-term changes. Wittkopp and her team wanted to look at how daily fluctuations in traffic and air quality would affect those residing in the immediate vicinity of congested roadways.

The research team, led by adviser Ralph Delfino, associate professor and vice chair for research and graduate studies in the Department of Epidemiology at UC Irvine’s School of Medicine, set up air quality monitors at the residences of the study participants. They looked for daily and weekly changes in traffic-related pollution such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.

What they found: “Blood pressure went up with increased traffic pollutants, and EKG changes showed decreased blood flow to the heart,” Wittkopp said.

Uncovering a genetic link

Just how susceptible a person is to these negative impacts appears to depend not just upon age and proximity to traffic, but also upon genetics, the research team found.

They uncovered what they believe is the first epidemiological evidence that a person’s mitochondrial DNA could affect their susceptibility to adverse health effects related to air pollution.

“When our cells are exposed to toxins, they respond by making more proteins that enable them to detoxify pollutants,” Wittkopp said. “We can actually monitor how the protein levels are going up and down and how the gene readouts change as people are exposed.” Looking at traffic-related pollution, they discovered that a person’s ability to produce the proteins that combat pollutants varied dramatically based on their DNA.

By identifying the genetic variables that place people at greater risk, health care providers could help account for these impacts and prescribe proactive treatments — such as antioxidants that reduce inflammation — that would make people less vulnerable.

But Wittkopp also stresses such treatment would simply be a Band-Aid on the greater problem.

Impetus to improve infrastructure, lessen exposure

“Understanding the health problems that traffic-related pollution causes helps us understand why we need to change things and improve our infrastructure to reduce exposure,” said Wittkopp, who believes this research can provide policymakers and the public with a fuller picture of the impact of pollution.

“This kind of information can help us quantify the cost of traffic-related air pollution in terms of health care costs, lives lost and quality of life diminished.”

While genetic factors may make some more vulnerable than others, Wittkopp points out, “There’s no one who’s not susceptible in some way. No one gets better when they are exposed to these pollutants.”

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Donations needed to help dogs, cats of the homeless


Supports Mercer Clinic Holiday Pet Basket program.

Help is welcomed this holiday season to help take the chill out of life on the streets for the dogs and cats of area homeless people.

For the 19th year, staff volunteers at UC Davis’ William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital are gathering monetary donations to help fill 130 holiday-wrapped boxes with toys, treats, food and pet-care products. The holiday pet baskets will be distributed on Saturday, Dec. 13, to pet owners attending the monthly Mercer Veterinary Clinic for the homeless in Sacramento.

The Holiday Pet Basket program also is raising funds for the fourth year to provide sweaters and coats to help these pets survive the winter weather.

“The Holiday Pet Baskets are a much appreciated gift to these very special pets that deserve a happy holiday, too,” said Eileen Samitz, who coordinates the holiday basket program. “However, we also recognize the essential need for warm sweaters and coats, particularly for the smaller or older pets, which have a far harder time enduring the cold winter temperatures, especially at night.”

Checks to support the Holiday Pet Baskets and purchase of pet coats and sweaters may be made payable to the UC Regents – Mercer Holiday Pet Baskets and mailed to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Office of the Dean, P.O. Box 1167, Davis, CA 95617-1167, Attn: Mercer Holiday Pet Baskets.

Online donations also can be made at: http://bit.ly/189XBde by choosing the “Mercer Clinic Holiday Pet Baskets” option.

More information about how to help the Mercer Holiday Pet Basket program can be obtained from coordinator Eileen Samitz (evenings and weekends) at (530) 756-5165 and emsamitz@ucdavis.edu or from the Mercer Clinic website and photo gallery at www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/clubs/mercer.

About the Mercer Clinic

Since 1992, the Mercer Clinic has provided the pets of homeless individuals with basic veterinary care, access to emergency care and pet food — all free of charge. The clinic is open on the second Saturday of each month, staffed by veterinary faculty and practitioners who volunteer their time and supervise the veterinary students, who run the clinic. The students gain valuable experience as they apply their studies and work alongside veterinarians to learn veterinary responsibilities and client communication skills.

In addition to improving the lives of the pets of the homeless, the Mercer Clinic works to reduce pet overpopulation by arranging for free vaccinations as well as spay and neuter surgeries for the animals.

Mercer Clinic takes place at Loaves & Fishes, 1321 West C St., Sacramento. The clinic has received the American Veterinary Medical Association Humane Award and the Sacramento SPCA “Humane-itarian” award for its work with this special population of animal companions.

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Regents approve long-term stability plan for tuition, financial aid


Plan would allow UC to enroll more California students.

The University of California Board of Regents approved today (Nov. 20) a five-year plan for low, predictable tuition that, together with modest state funds, would allow UC to enroll more California students, maintain the university’s strong financial aid program and invest in educational quality.

The plan authorizes UC to increase tuition by up to 5 percent per year through 2019-20, an amount that could be reduced or eliminated entirely if the state provides sufficient revenue. The full board approved the plan on a 14-7 vote. At Wednesday’s (Nov. 19) meeting, the Regents Long-Range Financial Plan Committee approved the plan on a 7-2 vote, with Gov. Jerry Brown and student regent Sadia Saifuddin voting against it.

“No one wants to see the price of a UC education increase, but I believe the plan is fair and necessary if UC is to remain a world-class, public-serving university,” said Bruce Varner, regents chair, at Wednesday’s meeting, where the plan was discussed at length.

UC President Janet Napolitano noted that state support for UC students remains near the lowest it has been in more than 30 years. The university receives about $460 million less today than it did before the recession.

“Despite the level of public disinvestment, its research and academic reputation have been largely sustained,” Napolitano said. “Entire swaths of the California economy — from biotechnology to the wine industry — have sprung from UC research. UC graduates lead the creativity and innovation activities upon which California prides itself.

“With this plan we can invest in faculty. This means we can increase course selection, speed time to graduation, and better support graduate education as well as undergraduate education. But we cannot continue to do these things without additional revenue.”

She said the long-term plan also would help students, families and the university by helping to end the annual “feast or famine” budget cycle in which tuition rises and falls — sometimes dramatically — in relation to state funding.

“This plan brings clarity to the tuition and financial aid process for our students and their families,” Napolitano said.

Napolitano noted that UC has one of the strongest financial aid programs of any university in the country: Fifty-five percent of California undergraduates have all systemwide tuition and fees covered.

The plan preserves that robust aid model. It also will allow UC to enroll 5,000 more California students, a critical component given that applications are “running at a record pace,” as they have been for the last decade, Napolitano said.

Brown proposed that he and Napolitano instead form a select committee to investigate a variety of ideas for reducing UC’s long-term costs, including creation of a three-year undergraduate degree, greatly expanding the use of online courses, and the development of campus specific specializations.

Napolitano and other regents welcomed the committee idea, but said UC could not wait to take decisive action on the university’s budget.

Regent Sherry Lansing thanked the governor and said she looked forward to deeper talks with the state.

She noted that Brown recently had vetoed a bill that would have boosted UC’s state funding by $50 million, and that the state also does not contribute to UC’s employer portion of pension costs, even though it does pay those for both the California State University and the California Community College system.

“Our pension funds are treated differently than CSU, and if they weren’t we would not be talking about a tuition increase,” Lansing said. “The solutions are there: Give us a tuition buyout or better than that, cover the pension obligation.”

Regent Bonnie Reiss echoed the sentiment. She said that California’s recent funding priorities have included funds for high-speed rail, water storage and a rainy day fund.

“All are important. But I say to our elected leaders, isn’t investing in public higher education an equally important priority?”

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Student veteran gives back for all doors Army has opened for her


She will speak at UCLA’s Veterans Day salute on Nov. 10.

Tigon Abalos, now a dental student at UCLA, volunteered to work with Afghan refugees when she was in the Army stationed in Afghanistan. Abalos, a former Vietnam refugee, will speak about what her military service means to her at UCLA's Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 10. (Photo courtesy of tigon Abalos)

When 9/11 happened, it jolted Tigon Abalos with such force that she felt she had to do something for the country that had given her and her family, former refugees from Vietnam, opportunities for a better life in a new country.

Two years later, Abalos, who was already serving part time in the California Army National Guard, interrupted her college career to enlist in the Army and train as a counter-intelligence specialist. That was the beginning of a six-year, military career that opened up more opportunities for Abalos: She met her future husband, a fellow soldier, and she discovered her life’s calling in Afghanistan when she began volunteering to help Afghan refugees.

Abalos, now a UCLA School of Dentistry student and one of more than 400 student veterans, will draw on her deep appreciation for her service experience when she speaks at UCLA’s annual Veterans Day ceremony Monday, Nov. 10, at 10:30 a.m. in Wilson Plaza, a time  when the campus community comes together to salute veterans and remember the sacrifices they’ve made. Also speaking will be Chancellor Gene Block and Kelly Schmader, assistant vice chancellor of facilities management at UCLA and a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps.

“Serving in the Army allowed me to see the world,” said Abalos. “My experiences gave me a whole new perspective on life. While serving, I also became motivated to complete my college degree.” And it was while working with the refugees in Afghanistan that Abalos became aware of a critical shortage of dentists.

The daughter of a former South Vietnamese former military police officer, Abalos knew very little English and nothing about American culture when she arrived with her family in Fresno in 1996, five years before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Nevertheless, she managed to become the first in her family to finish high school, graduating with honors, and then enrolling at UC Berkeley, only to leave for military service two years later.

When Abalos was discharged from the Army in 2008 as a staff sergeant with a string of medals and an Army Combat Action Badge for working under enemy fire in Afghanistan, she set her sights on a college degree and a career in dentistry. In 2012, she graduated from Cal State Fresno with a degree in chemistry degree and an invitation to enter UCLA School of Dentistry, her top choice.

“I wouldn’t have even considered dental school had it not been for my humanitarian work in Afghanistan,” she said. “The military taught me about teamwork and to never give up, both traits that I now use in dental school.”

As an older dental student and a mother — she gave birth to a son about the same time she started at UCLA — Abalos has faced challenges with the same “can-do” attitude that she learned in the Army.

“I have my own struggles, much like anyone would in a demanding training program,” said Abalos. “But, I feel like I’ve lived a lot of life already, compared to some of my younger colleagues. I’ve seen the world. I can handle stressful situation and have realistic expectations.”

She and her husband, who is now stationed in Long Beach after transferring to the California Army National Guard, share in the care of their 2-year-old son. “It is a lot of time and sacrifice, but we make it work,” she said.

Even with these added responsibilities, Abalos has continued to be actively involved in veterans’ affairs. As an undergrad, she was part of Fresno State’s Student Veterans Organization and received the National Student Veterans Association STEM Scholarship Award.

At UCLA, she is currently on a student committee in the dental school that provides services and oral health education to veterans in the Los Angeles area. She also volunteers in the dental clinic assisting patients at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center.

UCLA supports many such initiatives for veterans, ranging from programs that help student veterans navigate the benefits process to efforts to bring injured vets and their families to UCLA’s medical facilities through the nationally acclaimed Operation Mend.

After graduation, Abalos hopes to enter a hospital dentistry residency program that integrates medicine and dentistry. Patients who require this type of dental care have severe medical, physical or mental impairments. Her goal is to return to the military as an officer in the Naval Reserve and practice at a VA hospital somewhere in California.

“I feel that given my background in combat and the military, I can better relate to people who have experienced trauma,” said Abalos. “For example, patients who have posttraumatic stress disorder are going to trust someone that has gone through what they have gone through.”

For now Abalos is concentrating on graduating and going onto the next step of her career. “My career path has been a bit of a winding road,” she said. “But I know where I’m going now.

“The timeworn Army slogan when I enlisted was ‘Be all you can be.’ I guess I just really took that heart,” she said.

The campus community is invited to UCLA’s Veterans Day ceremony on Monday, Nov. 10, at 10:30 a.m. at Wilson Plaza. In addition to speeches, the event will also feature an ROTC color guard and information fair. Visit UCLA Veterans to learn more about campus programs and resources for veterans.

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$2M donated for endowed scholarship at UCLA dental school


Gift by Bob and Marion Wilson is largest scholarship donation the dental school has received.

Bob and Marion Wilson

A $2 million gift from Bob and Marion Wilson, longtime supporters of the UCLA School of Dentistry, will give a significant boost to scholarship funding for future generations of dentists. The Wilsons’ donation will establish the Bob and Marion Wilson Endowed Scholarship Fund, which will be used in support of annual scholarships to students who excel in the classroom and are dedicated to public service.

The Wilsons’ gift, which is the largest scholarship donation the dental school has ever received, comes at an optimal time, with state support having decreased substantially over the years. Scholarships help students defray educational expenses, ensuring that the broad array of professional options — including teaching, research and practice in underserved communities — remains open to each student after graduating.

“Being able to establish an endowed scholarship allows Marion and me to support future generations of dental students,” Bob Wilson said. “The UCLA School of Dentistry is a top choice among dental school applicants and our hope is that this donation will allow the school to support students who exhibit academic excellence and exemplary public service.”

The dental school attracts world-class students who go on to be leaders in the fields of oral and systemic health in California, the nation and the world.

The School of Dentistry awards an average of roughly $3 million per year in scholarships and grants to students. The Wilson endowed scholarship will increase the school’s ability to give even more financial aid.

“Increasing our scholarship endowment is one of our top priorities,” said Dr. No-Hee Park, dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry. “This very generous gift made by the Wilsons allows the school to reward those students who excel academically and give back to the community. I cannot thank the Wilsons enough for their investment in our students’ future.”

For nearly three decades, the Wilsons have been loyal supporters of the dental school. Bob Wilson is a dedicated member of the school’s board of counselors and now serves on the dean’s Centennial Campaign Cabinet for UCLA, which launched in May.

The Wilsons both attended UCLA. Bob graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1953 and Marion graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1950. Bob went on to a successful career in commercial real estate development, and the couple has remained dedicated to helping their alma mater fulfill its mission of educational excellence. In 1989, they helped establish the Wilson-Jennings-Bloomfield UCLA Venice Dental Center, a community clinic that provides dental care to predominantly low-income patients.

The impact of the Wilson’s philanthropy is evident across the UCLA campus, most notably in Wilson Plaza, which was dedicated in their name in 2000 in recognition of their longtime generous support for the university. In 2006, they were awarded the UCLA Medal, the university’s highest honor.

For everything that the couple has done for the School of Dentistry and UCLA, the dental school will recognize them as an official honoree at the dental school’s upcoming 50th Anniversary Gala event next spring.

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