All posts by UMKC Strategic Marketing and Communications

UMKC Health Equity Institute Works to Halt COVID-19 Pandemic in KC

Charlie Keegan, KSHB, talked to Jannette Berkley-Patton and volunteers at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site

The UMKC Health Equity Institute facilitated volunteer efforts at drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites. The institute was formed four years ago to identify health care problems and offer solutions led by Jannette Berkley-Patton, Ph.D. Read Keegan’s story about the testing site and the Health Equity Institute.

Support for Emergency Funding Keeps More Than 90 Students Afloat

As the UMKC community began to feel the impact of COVID-19, individual donations to the Student Emergency Fund made a significant difference for students in need.

From fellow students who started crowdfunding projects, to staff members and community donors, UMKC supporters contributed over $70,000 to the UMKC Student Emergency Fund to help students not only stay in school, but pay for housing, food, utilities and other emergency needs.

“We recognize that the effects of COVID-19 are not only physical, but economic. We are grateful to those who were able to step up and lend a hand.” – Jenny Lundgren

“Based on the demand, we were relieved to be able to provide critical assistance to our students in need,” said UMKC Provost Jenny Lundgren. “We recognize that the effects of COVID-19 are not only physical, but economic. We are grateful to those who were able to step up and lend a hand.”

Victor is studying electrical and computer engineering. He believes having a college degree will provide a solid foundation for him to build a successful career. Emergency aid kept him on track for completing the academic year and building a brighter future.

“With this act of kindness, I am one step closer in achieving my educational and career goals,” he said. “I plan to always give back to the community as a professional and successful engineer.”

Some students faced broader challenges than solely their academic ones. Denise is raising her children alone while pursuing her graduate degree.

“I had fallen behind on everything,” she said. “I am ever grateful for the blessing that you have bestowed on me.”

While the current crisis will eventually pass, the need for emergency funds will always exist. UMKC Foundation President Lisa Baronio is confident that the community will continue to support students on their paths to graduation.

“We are grateful for those donors who support this fund at every level.” – Lisa Baronio

“We always make the distinction that our donors are supporting people who are working to improve their lives and our communities as a whole,” Baronio says. “But these emergency funds are critical to keeping students in school, and we will always have students for whom relatively small amounts can make the difference between graduating and not being able to continue their education due to small financial constraints. We are grateful for those donors who support this fund at every level.”

Beams of Light to Treat Diabetes: UMKC Invention Gets Federal Funding Boost

The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue work on an important advancement to help treat the tens of millions of people who have diabetes.

The lifetime burden of constantly checking blood sugar and injecting insulin is significant. UMKC research has developed a way of delivering insulin to diabetics that eliminates pumps and most injections.

“We’re aiming to improve the lives of diabetics all over the world,” said UMKC pharmacy professor Simon Friedman, the principal investigator on the grant.


Normally, diabetics must inject themselves with insulin numerous times per day to enable the body to absorb blood sugar. The amount of insulin needed and timing vary with what an individual eats and their activity level. With blood glucose continuously varying, the insulin requirement parallels the amount of glucose in the blood.

The only clinically-used method to permit continuously variable delivery of therapeutic proteins like insulin is a pump. But they do so at a high cost: a physical connection to the outside of the patient, where the drug reservoir resides, and the inside of the patient, where drug absorption will ultimately take place. This connection in insulin pumps is a cannula — or needle — which can be dislodged, crimped, snagged, infected and most importantly, rapidly gets biofouled from moisture after implantation. This leads to variable and unpredictable delivery.

For several years, Friedman and his lab associates have been developing a method in which a single injection of a material called a PAD (photo-activated depot) can take the place of multiple normal insulin injections and allow for minute-by-minute automatic updating of insulin release. The material is injected into the skin like insulin, but lies dormant until a beam of light stimulates release of insulin, in response to blood sugar information.

The new grant will help make the technology more reliable for someone to use and easier to manage.

“With the improvements, we anticipate creating a new and revolutionary approach to continuously variable protein delivery, one that minimizes invasiveness and maximizes the close matching of therapeutic with patient requirements,” Friedman said.

Karen Kover, associate professor of pediatrics at the UMKC School of Medicine and Children’s Mercy, has been an integral member of the research team for years, and Friedman is grateful for her collaboration.

Reviewers of the grant application praised the work, and Friedman, who has won previous NIH funding, said this was his highest rated grant award.

“We are grateful for the enthusiastic response from the NIH study section, given the very competitive nature of funding at this time during the pandemic,” said UMKC Vice Chancellor for Research Chris Liu.

The project is supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the NIH.

In people with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin. Patients need insulin to process sugar from meals.

People with type 2 diabetes make insulin, but their bodies don’t respond well to it. At first the pancreas produces extra insulin to make up for it. But over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep blood sugar at normal levels.

About 34.2 million children and adults in the U.S. — 10.5% of the population — have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 25 percent use insulin shots. About 86 million people ages 20 and older in the U.S. have prediabetes.

Complications from diabetes include heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, nervous system damage and amputation.

People with diabetes risk more serious complications from COVID-19 than others who do not have the disease.

“Through research at UMKC, we strive to improve the health of not just our community but our entire population,” said Chancellor Mauli Agrawal. “We are proud of Dr. Friedman and his team’s innovation, which could significantly benefit people around the world.”

UMKC School of Medicine Approved to Expand Program in Missouri

A new UMK School of Medicine campus in St. Joseph, in partnership with Mosaic Life Care, will increase rural health care

The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine plans to expand its program to St. Joseph, Missouri, to address the state’s rural physician shortage.

The University of Missouri System Board of Curators approved the proposal on Thursday.

UMKC received a $7 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to start the new program in January 2021. HRSA, the primary federal agency for improving access to health-care services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable, will pay out the grant over four years.

“We are thrilled we will be able to address a critical health-care need in Missouri,” said Chancellor Mauli Agrawal, Ph.D. “This will enable more patients throughout the state to get better access to high-quality medical treatment.”

The need is great in the United States – the American Association of Medical Colleges projects a shortage of nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032, with primary-care physicians making up almost half of this shortage. And the need is especially great in Missouri: the state has 250 primary-care health professional shortage areas, including 109 of its 114 counties. It ranks No. 40 among U.S. states in terms of health.

“The disparities in care in rural areas result in higher rates of death, disability and chronic disease for rural Americans. Expansion of our medical school to the northwestern region of our state will serve to bridge this gap, knowing that students training in rural programs are three times as likely to remain in practice in those areas.” – UMKC School of Medicine Dean Mary Anne Jackson

“Missouri is facing a physician shortage in the next five years, creating major challenges for rural communities,” said U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Missouri). “As chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Health and Human Services, I started the Medical Student Education Program to ensure resources were specifically targeted toward improving access to care where it’s needed most. I am glad to see the University of Missouri-Kansas City focusing efforts on addressing that challenge by training more physicians to practice medicine in rural and underserved areas. This is great news for UMKC and the St. Joseph community.”

Typically, physicians remain in the areas where they go to medical school, and 80 percent of UMKC School of Medicine students are from Missouri and the surrounding counties, said Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., dean of the school. “The disparities in care in rural areas result in higher rates of death, disability and chronic disease for rural Americans. Expansion of our medical school to the northwestern region of our state will serve to bridge this gap, knowing that students training in rural programs are three times as likely to remain in practice in those areas.”

While the UMKC School of Medicine is known for its innovative six-year B.A./M.D. program that admits students directly from high school, it will offer a four-year M.D. program in St. Joseph open to students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree. This M.D. track option has been part of the school tradition since opening its doors almost 50 years ago.

“I am glad to see the University of Missouri- Kansas City focusing efforts on addressing that challenge by training more physicians to practice medicine in rural and underserved areas. This is great news for UMKC and the St. Joseph community.” – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt

The new program in St. Joseph will expand the UMKC School of Medicine M.D. program by adding 20 students in St. Joseph to each cohort of about 100 students in Kansas City, said Steven Waldman, M.D., J.D., program director and principal investigator on the grant, and vice dean and chair of Humanities at the UMKC School of Medicine. The co-investigators on the grant are Michael Wacker, Ph.D., associate dean of academic affairs, and Paula Monaghan-Nichols, Ph.D., associate dean of research administration, both from the UMKC School of Medicine. The four-year program eventually will allow the UMKC School of Medicine to train 80 additional medical students.

In addition to the grant, the expansion is possible because of a partnership with Mosaic Life Care, located in St. Joseph. Mosaic is one of the largest private rural primary-care networks in the U.S. and a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network. Students will be able to learn and train in Mosaic’s rural healthcare network.

“The receipt of this federal grant, as well as the partnership, will allow the UMKC School of Medicine to expand our mission of training superlative physicians and health-care professionals to care for our most vulnerable populations,” Waldman said. “The addition of the UMKC School of Medicine’s St. Joseph campus will greatly enrich rural health-care education for our students.”

Other partners:

  • Truman Medical Centers, the primary teaching hospital for the school, has a mission dedicated to providing public health and specialty services for those with financial, health or insurance issues that limit access to care in Kansas City. Students, residents and faculty who are based at Truman in Kansas City will be able to learn and teach at Mosaic in St. Joseph and collaborate on care for patients.
  • UMKC Health Sciences District is a partnership of a dozen health-care entities including four UMKC health professions schools. This further expands the district’s reach into rural health care.
  • UMKC STAHR (Students in Training, in Academia, Health and Research) Partnership Program is committed to increasing the number of students from educationally and/or economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are prepared to enter, persist and graduate from a UMKC health sciences degree program. STAHR serves as a mentorship resource to students.

UMKC has a successful track record of creating rural health education programs in Missouri. The UMKC School of Pharmacy includes satellite campuses at the University of Missouri in Columbia and Missouri State University in Springfield.

14 COVID-19 Myths and Misconceptions

Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., dean of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, is an infectious disease expert. Also an alumna from the UMKC School of Medicine’s innovative six-year B.A./M.D. program, she served as one of six physicians statewide advising Missouri Governor Mike Parson about COVID-19, and was recently named senior advisor of public health in a five-member volunteer group on how Jackson County should spend its $122 million in CARES Act funding.

On numerous media appearances, Jackson has answered questions about evidence-based practices in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Here are just a few examples she’s dispelled of legend and lore about COVID-19:

1. A chiropractor has been publicizing an IV vitamin C product as a possible treatment for COVID-19. Anything to that?

Jackson: While there is biologic plausibility based on the hypothesis that when an individual suffers a severe infection, vitamin C which is necessary for cellular and tissue function, is depleted, there is no scientific evidence to support the use of vitamin C in the management of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. There is no data to support its use as prophylaxis that would be given in a chiropractor’s office.

One study registered at clinicaltrials.gov, will investigate the use of IV vitamin C in SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia patients in China using a randomized control trial protocol. The randomized control trial using a standard control group receiving placebo vs. the treatment group excludes bias and allows the outcome variable to be clear. This is especially important for COVID-19 where we know many cases spontaneously improve. There have been two recently published studies that are “open label” (no control group) to study the use of vitamin C in non-SARS-CoV-2 infections where individuals suffered from shock and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Neither showed clear evidence of benefit.

What is interesting is that anti-vaxxers appear to be circulating information on social media to drive the unproven messaging around vitamin C. For treatment of disease, trust a well-trained healthcare professional who practices evidence-based medicine and has extensive clinical experience.

2. Does heat kill the coronavirus? For example, the sun? A hot bath? Drinking hot water?

Jackson: There is no evidence of a benefit to flushing the virus from your system by drinking hot water or taking a hot bath. Drinking water will keep one hydrated and that is recommended for all.

The concept that heat can affect the virus is one worth discussing. The virus that causes COVID-19 is an enveloped virus, and enveloped viruses do generally demonstrate sensitivity to temperature and therefore may be more likely to appear or disappear during certain seasons related to temperature.

Research on other enveloped viruses suggests that this oily outer coat makes the viruses more susceptible to heat than those that do not have one. In colder conditions, the oily coat hardens into a rubber-like state, much like fat from cooked meat will harden as it cools, to protect the virus for longer when it is outside the body.

Many viruses wax and wane in seasons. Influenza typically arrives with the colder winter months. So does norovirus and RSV. Measles cases drop during the summer in temperate climates, and increase when schools are in session.

But we have no information about how the virus that causes COVID-19 will change with the seasons.

For one thing, pandemic viruses often don’t follow the same seasonal patterns seen in more normal outbreaks. Spanish flu, for example, peaked in the summer, while the typical seasonal flu peaks occur during the winter.

Even if COVID-19 does show some seasonal variability, it likely will persist to some degree and not totally disappear in the summer. A dip in cases will bring benefits, however. If it decreases in the summer, it is likely to re-emerge again in the fall. But there will be fewer susceptible individuals at that point, too, so potentially fewer cases-depending on how much of the population remains susceptible after the first wave.

3. If there has been a day of rain followed by sunshine, is playground equipment safe from COVID-19?

4. Jackson: As the weather warms, people will want to be outdoors and I’ve seen more people in our community outdoor walking and running in neighborhoods and in areas of parks and trails. It’s important to be outside to keep healthy, physically and mentally. And I especially like that I’ve seen families outside with their kids, who need to be active especially since they have no school and can’t be out with friends.

CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been emphasizing that to control the COVID-19 epidemic, we must “flatten the curve” — that is, reduce the amount of transmission of the virus. We know that one proven way to accomplish this is by physical distancing — keeping six feet or more from other individuals and taking precautions to wash hands, refrain from being in enclosed spaces with other people, disinfect surfaces and other precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

But do not take the kids to public playgrounds–you’ll find that all are cordoned off so that equipment can’t be accessed. Not only would open play areas encourage the kind of close contact we are trying to limit, but also, contaminated surfaces have been found to have detectable virus–including plastic and stainless steel. The duration that virus could exist on wood is not clearly known. There is no good evidence that following rain and with a day of sunshine, the playground is safe. There is no present guidance from CDC on how best to manage these spaces, including recommended cleaning and disinfection for outdoor equipment to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

Bottom line: Avoid the playground (and play dates) for kids while you are social distancing unless it is the playground in your own backyard for your family.

4. Should you consider deliberately exposing yourself to inoculate yourself?

Jackson: In the past, some parents participated in “chickenpox parties” to intentionally expose their unvaccinated children to a child with chickenpox in hopes that they would get the disease. CDC strongly recommends against hosting or participating in these events because serious complications and even death can follow infection and one cannot predict how severe the disease will be.

Now the same bad idea has emerged related to COVID-19. On March 24, it was announced that an individual in Kentucky tested positive for the novel coronavirus after they attended a “coronavirus party” for people in their 20s.

Young people are less at risk of developing serious complications of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but they may still require hospitalization for serious symptoms. And even someone who only contracts a mild case of the disease can spread it to vulnerable people.

We need to wait for the vaccine–and until then continue social distancing.

5. Can livestock pass COVID-19 on through our food supply?

Jackson: There are some food products that can be contaminated and pose a risk for transmission to humans–like E coli, norovirus and hepatitis A. That is why there is emphasis on food preparation safety in general.

The bacteria and viruses that are transmitted by food products are those that cause gastrointestinal infection. SARS-CoV-2 is a respiratory virus and there is no known foodborne risk for transmission.

There is no evidence that livestock or any other food product in the U.S. is a vector for transmission of the virus, and there is no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging to be associated with disease transmission.

There is no risk of food product recalls, and the U.S. food supply is safe.

6. Will drinking lots of water wash the virus down to your stomach where it will be killed by stomach acid? What about drinking bleach? Can you ward off the virus by eating food with higher PH level?

Jackson: Washing the virus down the esophagus will not reduce the risk of coronavirus and the virus is resistant to the diluted acid in the stomach

Gargling with water or with an antiseptic solution, compared to doing neither, did reduce reports of respiratory symptoms in a study from Japan. However, the findings don’t necessarily apply to COVID-19 – and it’s dangerous to assume that they do.

The main risk is from breathing in tiny droplets containing thousands of viral particles after an infected person coughs or sneezes within 6 feet from you.

The overwhelming evidence suggests that the best approach remains avoiding unnecessary social contact and washing your hands. So, put down the water and pick up the soap instead.

Drinking bleach is not a cure and is dangerous–it can result in vomiting, diarrhea and liver failure. Some bleach-based cleaners, however, are helpful for keeping surfaces virus-free.

7. Pets cannot spread the coronavirus, can they?

Jackson: This virus is thought to have jumped from animals to humans, but there is no evidence that it is spreading among pets or from cats and dogs to their owners. Cats have been infected, both at the zoo and in homes-but there is no evidence that cat to human transmission is a significant concern. There was one instance in Hong Kong where a dog tested positive, but the dog was well, and it was thought contaminated by secretions from the infected pet owner.

The CDC suggests letting family members without symptoms take on pet care and recommends that people with symptoms should avoid close contact such as “petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.”

When you care for your pets, wash your hands before and after handling and feeding.

8. Does ibuprofen make COVID-19 symptoms worse?

Jackson: I first heard of the ibuprofen alert after a report from the French health minister, Olivier Veran, identified that it could be a factor in worsening the infection based on anecdotal reports from physicians treating patients in that country. Then there was a letter that was published in the British medical journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine where it was hypothesized that ibuprofen could make it easier for the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, to enter cells. The theory is that ibuprofen could increase the levels of ACE2, which is a protein that the coronavirus uses to enter cells and might therefore increase the risk of serious infection. However, there is no evidence that ibuprofen raises ACE2 levels.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says more research is needed, but right now, there is “no evidence that ibuprofen increases the risk of serious complications or of acquiring the virus that causes COVID-19.”

There are reasons in general to avoid ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) because they are known to have gastrointestinal, kidney and cardiovascular side effects, which may be especially dangerous in very ill or elderly patients or in those with preexisting conditions.

9. Does putting petroleum jelly in your nose prevent the virus from getting into pores? Will rinsing your nose with saline prevent the virus?

Jackson: In the face of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, it’s natural that we’re looking for ways to stay healthy. Washing your hands and practicing social distancing are two proven pieces of advice that are more important than ever.

A dry nose can make one more vulnerable to viruses and certainly is an irritant for those who suffer allergies. A water-based product can help. Using saline or saltwater nose rinses will not prevent the virus, but in certain people with asthma for instance, who also have nasal and sinus symptoms, a saltwater nasal wash, or nasal irrigation, can help reduce nasal symptoms that can aggravate asthma.

According to National Jewish Health, a nasal wash:

  • Cleans mucus from the nose, so medication can be more effective
  • Cleans allergens and irritants from the nose, reducing their impact
  • Cleans bacteria and viruses from the nose, decreasing infections
  • Decreases swelling in the nose and increases airflow

But do not use tap water for the nasal wash. Do not use well water. Only use distilled or sterilized water for nasal rinses. And follow the CDC water preparation guidelines for proper preparation.

Avoid petroleum jelly in the nose–it can be inhaled and cause lung injury called lipid pneumonia. Don’t use antibiotic ointment either–that type of ointment does not fight viruses.

10. Can kids die from COVID-19?

Jackson: While children have been generally spared from COVID-19, pediatric cases requiring intensive care have occurred within our state and there are rare child deaths. The burden of disease is far less for children than influenza though.

A new syndrome, recently described, called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). MIS-C is an inflammatory response with organ dysfunction, thought to be triggered by prior exposure to SARS CoV-2. On May 14, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control issued a health advisory, to alert providers to this condition, which has now been identified in at least 19 different states and Washington DC. Parents should report to their pediatric provider if their child develops fevers especially associated with a rash. While the prognosis is good, children have suffered shock and required intensive care–the syndrome is extremely rare and we are still learning more about it.

11. If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, does that mean you don’t have the virus?

Jackson: It is true that those with serious lung disease of many types, such as emphysema, may not be able to hold their breath for 10 seconds.

Many respiratory viral infections make it difficult to hold your breath because the airway is irritated. The inability to do so does not identify those who have COVID-19.

This false claim was first attributed to someone at Stanford University Medicine–and the spokesperson at Stanford denies it came from them, and on March 12, they posted on social media that this was misinformation.

The only way to know if one is infected by SARS-CoV-2 is by testing secretions obtained by a swab placed in the nose/throat and having the specimen tested in a laboratory.

12. Is cupping a treatment for COVID-19?

Jackson: Cupping is a process whereby the skin is bruised using a suction cup over the skin, and is used in traditional Chinese medicine for a variety of ailments. It is being studied in a Chinese population convalescing from COVID-19, but there is no evidence that it is beneficial at this point.

13. Is proning a treatment for COVID-19?


Jackson:
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19 and we currently rely on supportive intensive care including oxygen, IV fluids andmechanical ventilation. Of specific therapies targeting SARS-CoV-2, none have been adequately studied, but there are some encouraging reports. Prone positioning of those with respiratory failure, meaning having the patient on a ventilator lay face down, was shown in a small study to result in better lung function with better oxygen levels and this treatment is being incorporated into care now.

Other therapies which are being examined include the use of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug which was shown to inhibit virus in a small study when paired with an antibiotic called azithromycin. We now know that there is no data to support its efficacy and individuals accessing chloroquine products and suffering life-threatening toxicity.

There are a couple broad-spectrum antiviral agents (one used in Ebola called remdesivir) that are being studied. Remdesivir is an intravenous drug used for those with serious COVID who require hospitalization and treated patients have shown a shortened course of disease.

Drugs that modify an inflammatory over-response seen in COVID-19 appear promising. These agents inhibit IL-6, an immune modifier, and are also being studied in severe cases of COVID-19.

14. Even though COVID is here to stay, at least for the next six months to a year, is it okay for me to go out into the community now? Can I go to the doctor for my routine care?

Jackson: We have successfully flattened the curve here in Kansas City, but COVID is continuing to circulate. The chance that you’ll be exposed to SARS CoV-2, is related to three factors:

  • what activity you are involved in
  • your proximity to others
  • the duration of exposure

Risk is greatest for indoor exposure where individuals are in close quarters with a large group of people. After a choir practice that took place in Washington on March 17, 2020, among 122 choir members, 87% of the group became infected from one infected member–it appears the act of singing amplified the spread of the virus. In contrast, if one is outdoors for a limited time, and can socially distance from others, the risk is very low.

In terms of going back to your doctor for routine appointments, every provider in our community is prepared to care for patients even while the virus is still circulating. It is especially important that infants and children visit their pediatrician and get their immunizations on time. Many pediatricians are asking parents to call on arrival to the office, and the provider will text when the office is ready to place the patient directly into an examination room. We don’t want a measles outbreak in our community while we’re still tackling COVID!

Two of five advisors on Jackson County COVID-19 funding group are UMKC faculty

Two of the five advisors named to help guide Jackson County on spending CARES Act funds from the federal government are top UMKC faculty members: School of Medicine Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., and Clara Irazábal-Zurita, Ph.D., director of the Latinx and Latin American Studies program and professor of planning in the Department of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design.

The county received about $122 million under the federal government’s CARES Act to aid the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the volunteer advisory group will provide recommendations to County Executive Frank White Jr. and the legislature on how to allocate funding consistent with CARES Act restrictions to have the greatest and most direct impact for the community.

Joining Jackson and Irazabal-Zurita on the advisory group are former Kansas City Mayor Sly James, former Kansas City Mayor Pro-Tem and Councilwoman Cindy Circo and accountant Rachelle Styles.

Mary Anne Jackson
Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., dean of the UMKC School of Medicine

Jackson, who is also an alumna from the UMKC School of Medicine, will be the senior advisor on public health. In addition to her role as dean, she is a pediatric infectious diseases expert, affiliated with Children’s Mercy and internationally known for her research. She is widely recognized for developing one of the nation’s leading and most robust pediatric infectious diseases programs.

She serves as a member of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, at the direction of the United States Assistant Secretary of Health, to provide recommendations for ways to achieve optimal prevention of human infectious diseases through vaccine development.

During the current COVID-19 crisis, Jackson has served as one of the six physicians statewide advising Missouri Governor Mike Parson. She also continues to be a frequently sourced expert for the media and national publications.

Clara Irazabal-Zurita
Clara Irazabal-Zurita, Ph.D., director of the Latinx and Latin American Studies program and professor of planning in the Department of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design

Irazabal-Zurita will be the senior advisor on community development and humanitarian response. Before joining UMKC, she was the Latin Lab director and associate professor of urban planning in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University in New York City.

In her research and teaching, she explores the interactions of culture, politics and placemaking, and their impact on community development and socio-spatial justice in Latin American cities and Latino and immigrant communities.

UMKC Honors Top Class of 2020 Graduates

Dean of Students Honors Recipients

Each year as the semester begins to wind down and seniors prepare for commencement, one of the biggest moments of their lives, academic and administrative units host breakfasts and ceremonies honoring the academic accomplishments of their graduates.

This year, however, things are very different, because of the novel coronavirus and related social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Still, UMKC faculty and staff are finding other ways to virtually recognize honors seniors through social and multi-media.

Fourteen School of Medicine students are among those nominated as Dean of Students Honors Recipients by faculty and staff for their commitment to academic success while actively participating in leadership and service to the community and our university outside of the classroom. Nominators and students recorded videos reflecting on this semester’s honors. See what they had to say:

“You are an exceptional group of people. Despite the demands of family, work and studies, you made time to give back to the community. When you saw a need, you worked to fill it. You are humanitarians, leaders and philanthropists and you should rightfully be proud of yourselves,” said Interim Dean of Students Chris Brown.

* – School of Medicine recipients

Afaq Alabbasi – School Pharmacy [watch the video] Nominated by Cameron Lindsey, interim chair of the Division of Pharmacy and Practicum [watch the video]

* Priyesha Bijlani – School Medicine [watch the video] Nominated by Betsy Hendrick, academic advisor, School of Medicine [watch the video]

Hannah-Kaye Carter – School of Biological & Chemical Sciences and Honors College [watch the video] Nominated by Carla Mebane, director of the UMKC High School/College Dual Credit Partnership [watch the video]

Austin Dada – School of Biological & Chemical Sciences [watch the video] Nominated by Ryan Mohen, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology [watch the video]

* Morgan Dresvyannikov – School of Medicine [watch the video] Nominated by Brent McCoy, senior academic advisor, School of Medicine [watch the video]

Sierra Duncan-Sonich – School of Biological & Chemical Sciences and Honors College [watch the video] Nominated by Tammy Welchert, director of Student Affairs and Undergraduate Enrollment, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences [watch the video]

Jorden Erskin – School of Nursing & Health Studies [watch the video] Nominated by Corinna Beck, academic advisor, School of Nursing and Health Studies [watch the video]

* Elsa George – School of Medicine [watch the video] Nominated by Brent McCoy [watch the video]

* Thomas Haferkamp – School of Medicine [watch the video] Nominated by Krisana West, academic advisor, School of Medicine [watch the video]

* Chizitam Ibezim – School of Medicine [watch the video] Nominated by Krisana West [watch the video]

Alyssa Jones – School of Biological & Chemical Sciences and Honors College [watch the video] Nominated by Susana Chavez-Bueno, associate professor of pediatrics [watch the video]

* Anusha Kodidhi – School of Medicine [watch the video] Nominated by Krisana West [watch the video]

* Christopher Kurian – School of Medicine
Nominated by Betsy Hendrick [watch the video]

Nuvia Lemus-Diaz – School of Dentistry [watch the video] Nominated by Richie Bigham, assistant dean for student programs, School of Dentistry [watch the video]

* Rmaah Memon – School of Medicine [watch the video] Nominated by Krisana West [watch the video]

Pooja Menon – School of Biological and Chemical Sciences [watch the video] Nominated by Lawrence Dreyfus, associate vice provost of faculty development and research [watch the video]

Emily Oliver – School of Pharmacy [watch the video] Nominated by Roger Sommi, associate dean and professor, School of Pharmacy [watch the video]

* Anthony Oyekan – School of Medicine [watch the video] Nominated by Betsy Hendrick [watch the video]

Jayanth Rao – School of Biological and Chemical Sciences [watch the video] Nominated by Tara Allen, teaching professor, School of Biology [watch the video]

* Nicole Rogers – School of Medicine [watch the video] Nominated by Brent McCoy [watch the video]

* Subhjit Sekhon – School of Medicine [watch the video] Nominated by Betsy Hendrick [watch the video]

* Mehr-Zahra Shah – School of Medicine [watch the video] Nominated by Betsy Hendrick [watch the video]

* Saumya Singh – School of Medicine [watch the video] Nominated by Krisana West [watch the video]

* Garima Thakkar – School of Medicine [watch the video] Nominated by Brent McCoy [watch the video]

Sarah Towakoli – College of Arts & Sciences and Honors College [watch the video] Nominated by Ken Novak, professor, criminal justice [watch the video]

Rachel Zender – School of Law [watch the video] Nominated by Molly Wilensky, director, Professional and Career Development Center [watch the video]

Undergraduate Research Fellows

Eleven May graduates earned the Undergraduate Research Fellow honorary transcript designation by demonstrating deep involvement in research process–formulating a research question, identifying an appropriate method to investigate the question, carrying out the project, and publication or presentation of the results beyond the classroom or research group.

Jerrah Biggerstaff – B.S. Physics/Astronomy, College of Arts and Sciences

Jaime Crouse – B.S. Biology; double minor in physics/astronomy and chemistry

Austin Dada – B.S. Biology

Lauren Higgins – B.S. Physics/Astronomy

Brandon Landaverry – B.S. Environmental Sciences

Andy Leon – B.S. Biology

Pedro Morales-Sosa – B.S. Biology

Minh Nguyen – B.S. Biology

Bwaar Omer – B.S. Biology

Annie Spencer – B.A. English and History

Sarah Towakoli — B.A. Criminal Justice & Criminology and Political Science

 

Alumni Expertise on COVID-19

UMKC grads use experience to combat the coronavirus

UMKC Roos are lending their expertise across the country to help ease the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic. These are just a few of the graduates making a difference.

Gina Mullen (M.D. ’11), emergency room doctor, physician and medical director at VA North Texas Healthcare System and Baylor Medical Center at Uptown appeared on Anderson Cooper 360 with her husband, Jim Mullen. Gina Mullen was treating coronavirus patients in Dallas, Texas, when Jim — a lawyer with a background in nursing — decided to go help COVID-19 patients in New York.Screengrab of Gina Mullen on Anderson Cooper 360


Mary Anne Jackson (M.D. ’78), dean of the UMKC School of Medicine and infectious disease expert, is one of six physicians statewide advising Missouri Gov. Mike Parson. Her expertise has been cited in numerous programs and publications including Doctor Radio on SIriusXM, KCUR and The Kansas City Star. She also helped gather personal protective equipment across the UMKC Health Sciences District to be donated to area hospitals.


Janelle Sabo (Pharm.D. ’00), serves as global head of clinical innovation, systems and clinical supply chain at Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, Indiana. She has been leading Eli Lilly’s corporate clinical trial management for the treatment of COVID-19, a partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Sabo is also running Lilly’s data management and results from reporting of COVID-19 testing center that started a few weeks ago.


Alexander Garza (B.S. ’90), oversees hospitals in four states as chief medical officer of SSM Health in St. Louis. He is also incident commander of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force and appeared on MSNBC in March to discuss the uptick in COVID-19 cases in the Midwest.Screengrab of Alexander Garza on MSNBC


 

Clinical training without the clinic

A School of Medicine program switched its in-person patient contact modules to a telemedicine format. And the director of the School of Nursing and Health Studies’ simulation lab brought two high-tech manikins home with her, so students could still use them to learn, albeit remotely.

As a result, half a dozen medical and nursing classes logged clinical training online, just in the first week after break, and that pace will pick up in weeks to come.

Education on the line

On April 2 and 3, 95 students in the UMKC nurse practitioner program interviewed and assessed 10 patients with varying health conditions, all without risking any contamination.

That’s because all the interviews were done by video conference — telemedicine style — rather than in person. And their “patients” were from the School of Medicine’s Standardized Patient Program, which has 60 people trained as medical actors to present dozens of possible conditions to student learners.

“Several training events had to be canceled in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 closures,” said Courtney McCain, the program coordinator. “Faculty members and I hurriedly emailed, phoned and Zoomed to come up with alternatives for our April events.”

As a result, the students in the nursing school’s nurse practitioner program had video conferences with their “patients.” Then they were rated on how well they interviewed them and took their medical histories, and on how well they communicated with them.

“Our standardized patients also are trained in constructively assessing how well the students communicate, which they will do after running through their scenario so the students can learn from these experiences,” McCain said. “Ordinarily, this exercise would have included a hands-on, physical exam. But we have modified its objectives to emphasize students’ ability to take a competent patient history and to communicate professionally.”

There were some first-week glitches, as bandwidth bottlenecks and software quirks were discovered. But five students who submitted comments were all positive about the exercise, which let them see their patient’s chart well in advance, so they could be prepared for the examination.

Two students, Tiffany Arnold and Abby Martens, said they had handled real telemedicine appointments shortly before campus shut down. The exercise “was very accurate, with no real difference from the visits I was doing in the last month,” Arnold said. Martens added, “I thought it was realistic. I worked with a physician one day a couple of weeks ago who did telehealth all day, and it was pretty similar.”

Another classmate, Catharine Cooper, said, “My actor was fantastic as a patient and really seemed like patients that I have seen in clinic, when I was at clinic.”

“This experience is helping us realize how much more we can do in a telemedicine setting. We’re growing our repertoire of simulations and possibilities.”
— Courtney McCain

McCain said some tweaks had been made after the first sessions, so things should go even better for the next large group of nurse-practitioner students who have a similar exercise. The first students for a revamped exercise in the School of Medicine program just happened to be from the nursing school, she said.

The program is overseen by Emily Hillman, M.D., director of simulation for the UMKC Clinical Training Facility. Hillman, an assistant professor, earned her M.D. and a recent master’s in medical education from UMKC. Now she and other faculty are devising the online versions of fourth- and fifth-year medical students’ clinical experiences in family medicine, pediatrics, surgery and in-patient hospital visits and treatment.

McCain has been with the Standardized Patient Program since 2011 and has seen the number of training scenarios it presents grow 450 percent. Now, as challenging as it is to shift all clinical training online, she sees an opportunity for more growth and creativity. A recent international webinar with other directors of standardized patient programs also gave her some more ideas and troubleshooting tips.

“It’s been a crash-course in new technology, along with everything else. We are rapidly making lemonade,” McCain said. “This experience is helping us realize how much more we can do in a telemedicine setting. We’re growing our repertoire of simulations and possibilities, so if the COVID-19 closures continue, we’ll be in a good position to continue delivering scenarios to students so they’ll have minimal interruption in this portion of their studies.”

Smart use of dummies

Christine Zimmerman’s house recently added a couple of occupants, but she didn’t have to put them on her Census form. Her guests, one adult and one child, are manikins from the nursing school’s simulation lab.

Nursing students normally spend hours in the school’s high-fidelity simulation lab, managing patients with complex clinical issues while practicing assessment and communication skills. When Zimmerman heard that access to campus buildings would be greatly restricted, she got the idea to set up a smaller version of the lab in her basement.

“We have nine manikins, but I can adapt most simulations with these two,” said Zimmerman, who has a master’s in nursing education and a Ph.D. in nursing from UMKC, in addition to her R.N. “They breathe; they blink. They’re computer controlled. You can monitor their heartbeat and other vital signs.”

Students can’t come to her house, but groups of around eight meet online and can see and guide Zimmerman’s assessment of the patients. Other simulation staff members are online, too, and can speak for the manikin as the students ask questions.

The class members can discuss the case among themselves, but they have to be tactful about what they say in “earshot” of the patient. And if they decide medicines are needed in a particular scenario, they can make a virtual stop by a “meds station” Zimmerman has set up. There she can hold labels up to the camera so a student can verify that the right pharmaceutical is being dispensed.

Zimmerman started the lab sessions the Tuesday after spring break and is running four or five a week, as she usually does when she has access to the full lab.

“The sessions run either four hours or eight hours,” she said. “We cover a lot of ground, and I’m pleasantly surprised with how successful this transition has been.”

Students agreed. Madison Putnam, a senior nursing student, said, “I am grateful UMKC and Dr. Zimmerman have found ways to continue to provide us nursing students as much ‘hands on’ education as possible.”

Natalie Patton, a junior said, “Dr. Zimmerman’s recreation of SIM lab was amazing. And it was wonderful to work with more of my classmates than an in-person simulation would have provided. Though we had to take turns talking, the online format did not impede our communication at all, and we were able to efficiently work together and save the patient in crisis.”

Zimmerman also said it was a bonus for her to have a whole group of students online so she can hear their discussion of cases, something she can’t normally do when a class huddles up out of her earshot.

“If anything, they are more focused on the critical thinking and clinical evaluations they have to do,” Zimmerman said. “Of course, I’m sorry for the situation that makes all this necessary, but I enjoy the challenge and the need to take a creative approach to these challenges.”

SOM’s Fahad Qureshi one of three to advance to pitch competition finals

UMKC students will compete at UM System Entrepreneurship Quest Student Accelerator Pitch Competition

The UMKC teams secured their spots in the March 25 competition. First place went to Genalytic. Second place went to Compost Collective KC. Third place went to Vest Heroes.

The student entrepreneurs were all solving problems through their business ventures. UMKC, MU, S&T and UMSL held workshops during the fall semester that covered business models, venture pitching and the EQ application process. University representatives and community leaders chose the most promising applicants, who participated in a pitch competition to narrow the field to 10 semifinalists. Student teams chosen during the first competition had the opportunity to participate in an eight-week EQ educational program.

The EQ program included workshops, mentoring, demo days and coaching from local entrepreneurs. The purpose is to help students research, develop and practice pitching their concepts based on feedback from business leaders, investors and subject-matter experts. At the end of the program each university held another pitch competition to choose three finalists and proceed to the EQ finals this week.

Round one of the finals starts at 4 p.m. April 15. Twelve teams will present on Zoom to a panel of judges recruited by each school. The top three present again in round two at 1 p.m. April 16 for a different panel of judges.

Winning UMKC Ventures
Vest Heroes

When UMKC School of Medicine student Fahad Qureshi started shadowing physicians, he saw that surgical operations involving an X-ray or radioactive imaging technology often requires the health care professional to wear a lead vest and skirt. The equipment was very heavy, weighing between 30 and 69 pounds.

Qureshi said surgeons complained of back pain and hindered operational mobility due to the excess weight. In addition, Qureshi said the pain worsened for physicians as they worked long surgeries and as they aged. To solve this problem, Qureshi realized he needed to add an engineering element to his medical background. He started an apprenticeship with a local engineer and learned how to work with his hands. Qureshi said his eyes were opened to the problem-solving nature of the field. He soon started constructing his own prototypes based on the action of pulleys and levers.

The prototype consisted of a lead vest/skirt with a tether. This tether was hooked to a cord that ran to a small hook on a ceiling. Finally, the cord was connected to a weight that offset the weight of the vest. In this way, a simple pulley was created. He contacted an interventional nephrology practice in Chicago that uses radioactive imaging called A.I.N., who allowed him to build a model in the operating room with special sterile materials. Qureshi used a 50-pound weight to make a 60-pound vest and skirt feel like just 10 pounds. The physicians at the practice were astounded and asked for more, citing their immense need.

“My preparation comes from trying to advance the company,” Qureshi said. “I’ve pitched the product to doctors in hospitals across the country, most notably at the Mayo Clinic. I intend to pitch the huge progress and real-world applicability.”

“I have learned what it takes to build something, and this program has given me an opportunity to take an idea to a business,” Qureshi said. “I saw a problem when my childhood friend’s passing was partially the result of pain and limited mobility of the physician wearing a heavy lead vest that complicated the operation. I saw an opportunity to create a solution. I want people to know that I, like every member of the health care team, want to serve patients better and help them achieve the longest, healthiest life possible,” Qureshi said.

Genalytic

Greyson Twist, Ph.D., bioinformatics and computer science major, founded Genalytic. He describes Genalytic as a way to prescribe the right drug for each patient based on their genome.

“Pharmacogenomics sounds, and is, really complicated; but the idea is that every time you take a new drug or combination of drugs, or even drugs and food, you toss the dice and hope you are going to be OK,” Twist said. “Usually you are, but sometimes the drug doesn’t work. The drug makes you worse, or the drug kills you. We aim to fix that problem.”

Twist left his job at Children’s Mercy a year and a half ago and started working on Genalytic full time. He considered using Genalytic for a PhD project only. But friends and family convinced him there was business value in his idea. At about the same time, Twist learned about the EQ program and decided to give it a try. The tag line he has been using is “putting the person back in personalized medicine.”

“We have a very long way to go, but the EQ program is – was – the first step. And the support they have given me has really put wind in my sails to try and make this a reality,” Twist said. “If you have an idea or go to the EQ program, you literally have nothing to lose.”

Compost Collective KC

Kyle McAllister, business administration graduate student, leads Compost Collective KC. The company’s goal is to solve two fundamental problems. The first is a global issue. McAllister said food waste is a major threat to the environment and is produced in the United States at an alarming rate. Approximately 30% to 40% of all waste going to landfills in the U.S. is food. He said that equates to approximately 33 billion pounds of food in landfills per year. That volume would fill the entire Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, each day for an entire year.

McAllister said food waste breaks down in a landfill without oxygen and, as a result, emits methane gas. Depending on the study, McAllister said methane gas has 25 to 84 times the climate-change impact than carbon dioxide. Given this issue, people are looking for more sustainable alternatives. McAllister cited a recent Yale study that found that 70% of Americans think environmental protection is more important than economic growth.

McAllister believes Compost Collective KC can help solve a second problem – give people a simple way to have a positive environmental impact by composting.

Kyle’s partner is Meredith McAllister, co-founder. They are preparing for the April competition by incorporating feedback from the judges, practicing the pitch with their team and presenting to Kyle’s MBA class for feedback.

“I’ve learned a lot! It’s been a blast to participate and see some of the other really great ideas competing in the program,” McAllister said. “I’ve improved my presentation skills and the competition has also pushed us to think critically about our business, and that has helped us make some helpful decisions.”