Student Research Program announces Sarah Morrison Award recipients

UMKC School of Medicine Sarah Morrison student research award winners. First row: Anum Ahmed, Rohan Ahuja, Shiva Balasubramanian, Vijay Dimri. Second row: Nikki Gill, Shubhika Jain, Madhavi Murali, Christian Kingeter. Bottom row: Victoria Shi, Xi Wang, Matthew William.

The School of Medicine Student Research Program announced 11 recipients of the 2021 Sarah Morrison Student Research Awards that includes 10 medical students and one graduate student.

Awards of up to $3,000 are presented annually to School of Medicine students as they become involved in and learn about a wide variety of research activities based on their interests. The research may be in the basic sciences or in clinical medicine.

Students may develop their own hypothesis and work plan or work on an established research project with their mentor. Winners of the awards are expected to present the results of the research at a School of Medicine student research event such as the UMKC Health Sciences Student Research Summit or a similar venue as recommended by Research Administration.

More than 130 students have received Sarah Morrison awards since the program began in 2013 with more than $270,000 of financial support provided to conduct research projects at the School of Medicine.

All UMKC School of Medicine students with the exception of first-year students are eligible to receive a Sarah Morrison award through the school’s Office of Research and Administration. Second-year medical students must have  approval from the Student Research Committee.

Students interested in receiving a Sarah Morrison award must apply by noon on Nov. 15 to be considered. Applications must include a proposal protocol, budget, letters of reference, transcripts and curriculum vitae of the student. For complete application information, visit the student research website.

Award winners are selected by a panel of more than 25 School of Medicine faculty who review applications for the quality of the proposed research and outcomes, completion of application materials, a detailed project budget and academic achievement.

2021 Sarah Morrison Research Awards
(Recipient / Faculty Mentor / Project Title)

  • Anum Ahmed, MS 4 / Dr. Karl Kador, assistant professor, biomedical sciences / The effect of substrate stiffness on retinal ganglion cell neurite outgrowth
  • Rohan Ahuja, MS 4 / Dr. Michael Wacker, associate professor, vice-chair biomedical science / The effect of trimethylamine N-oxide on epiflourescent calcium imaging of mouse atria
  • Shiva Balasubramanian, MS 3 / Dr. Jignesh Shah, assistant professor of medicine and docent / Radical prostatectomy readmissions: causes, risk factors, national rates, and costs
  • Vijay Dimri, MS 3 / Dr. Seung Suk Kang, assistant professor, biomedical sciences / Effect of 4 weeks of transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation on heart rate variability and symptoms in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Nikki Gill, MS 3 / Dr. Paula Nichols, professor, chair biomedical sciences, associate dean research administration / The impact of cannabinoid exposure of glucocorticoid receptor signaling in neural stem cells
  • Shubhika Jain, MS 5 / Dr. Micah Sinclair, assistant professor orthopaedic surgery / Establishing the role of inflammatory markers in the diagnosis and treatment of acute hand infections in the pediatric population
  • Christian Kingeter, MS 5 / Dr. Peter Koulen, professor, director of basic research, Vision Research Center / Does an immune response to viral infection put patients on higher risk for developing age-related macular degeneration? Development of novel clinical diagnostic tools to identify at-risk patients
  • Madhavi Murali, MS 5 / Dr. Adriane Latz, otolaryngologist, Children’s Mercy Kansas City / Immediate recovery room hypoxemia after tympanostomy tube placement in children with PDC
  • Victoria Shi, MS 3 / Dr. Paula Nichols, professor, chair biomedical sciences, associate dean research administration / Transcriptome analysis of response to glucocorticoid treatment for bronchopulmonary dysplasia
  • Xi Wang, graduate student / Dr. Jenifer Allsworth, associate professor, biomedical and health informatics / Natural language processing of gestational diabetes mellitus management documentation from electronic health records
  • Matthew William, MS 3 / Dr. Xiang-Ping Chu, professor of biomedical sciences / Modulation of heteromeric ASIC1b/3 channels by Zinc

 

 

 

School of Medicine recognizes fall semester graduates

The School of Medicine recognized nearly 30 graduating students who participated in the university’s virtual December commencement ceremony on Dec. 19. Similar to the virtual commencement last May, UMKC worked with friends and supporters across Kansas City to celebrate Fall semester graduates with a spectacular “Light Up the Night” salute, with iconic Kansas City buildings lit up in vivid Roo blue and gold.

This school’s list of participants included 18 students who received their M.D. and 11 who received either a graduate certificate or master’s degree.

“Earning a degree from an accredited research university such as ours is a true achievement, one worthy of celebration,” said Chancellor Mauli Agrawal, Ph.D. “In these times, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, our celebrations must be planned with care. The health and safety of our graduates and their loved ones must remain our highest priority.”

In addition to going virtual in December, UMKC announced that it still intends to have an in-person commencement for May and December 2020 grads at some future date but will postpone setting a date until health and safety conditions permit. Earlier in the year, UMKC had hoped to hold that in-person celebration in December.

In a letter to campus, Chancellor Agrawal and Provost Jenny Lundgren said: “Clearly, we do not know when large events will be safe again and cannot realistically set a date at this time.”

But they noted that they “firmly believe that every UMKC graduate should have the opportunity to be personally recognized for the degree they’ve worked so hard to earn in the presence of their loved ones and closest friends and fellow graduates.”

UMKC leaders worked with students to plan the virtual ceremony last spring and consulted with them again on the decision to stay virtual this fall while continuing to plan for an in-person ceremony once it is safe to hold one.

Students earning a Doctor of Medicine
Sarah Atallah
Austin Bachar
Rico Beuford
Jaco Bly
Tom Chen
Julia Clem
Anna Curtis
Manuela Garcia
Nina Govalla
Andrew Jozwiakowski
Connor King
Alex Luke
Michael Manalo
Adiba Matin
Deanne Pisarkiewicz
Kavelin Rumalla
Margaret Urschler
Brandon Wesche

Students earning a Graduate Certificate
Binod Wagle
Tamika Cranford
Sarah Studyvin
Travis Gratton
Bini Moorthy

Students earning a Master of Science in Bioinformatics
Moghniuddin Mohammed
Andy Tran
Yahia Mohamed

Students earning a Master of Health Professions Education
Melanie Camejo
Courney McCain
Joy Solano

 

In Memoriam: Dr. Louise Arnold

One of the School of Medicine’s earliest and long-time faculty members, Louise Arnold, Ph.D., who served as associate dean for medical education and research until her retirement in 2012, died on Dec. 17.

Arnold joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1971 after hearing about the new School of Medicine serendipitously when she, her son Conrad, and her husband, Wilf, came to Kansas City as Wilf was joining the staff at the University of Kansas. Hired as education researcher and ultimately as the associate dean, Arnold spent more than 40 years helping refine the school’s curriculum and touting its key elements to medical educators nationwide.

She received her doctorate in sociology at Cornell University. Arnold and Richardson K. Noback, the UMKC School of Medicine’s founding dean, regularly discussed the many values, beliefs and enthusiasm they shared for their alma mater. As a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell’s Sloan Institute of Hospital Administration, Arnold studied the qualities that were most important for hospitals to provide compassionate care of patients. Thus began her storied career in promoting the role of professionalism and the importance of the development of professional identity for UMKC School of Medicine students.

A respected national and international scholar, Arnold was the founding chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges National Group on Combined Baccalaureate-M.D. Programs. She continued throughout her career to be an active participant at AAMC meetings.

She helped the City University of New York develop a seven-year combined degree medical school. The University of New Mexico established a combined baccalaureate-M.D. program with her help. Arnold encouraged faculty at the University of Washington to use learning communities patterned after UMKC’s docent system to deliver part of their clinical curriculum.

By 2011-2012, more than 60 medi­cal schools had incorporated some form of learning communities similar to those at UMKC. Many are members of the national Learning Communities Institute that Arnold and other leaders infor­mally organized.

In 2012, Arnold received the Ron Arky Award, named for the professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who founded the Learning Communities Institute, for significant contributions to the development in learning communities in medical education.

“Dean Emerita Betty Drees remembers Dr. Arnold as a role model and as a strong woman faculty member and I would agree,” said School of Medicine Dean Mary Anne Jackson, MD. , ’78. “Through the months of the pandemic as Dr. Arnold worked from home, she continued to actively work on projects and curriculum, mentoring junior faculty and connecting with others as she has always done. Having known Dr. Arnold as a student who started here in 1972, I greatly valued the opportunity to work with and learn from her during the last several years. She was truly one of the warmest, most gracious and smartest colleagues and she will be dearly missed.”

School of Medicine leaders will be planning a special event in the coming weeks to celebrate Arnold’s life and contributions to the school.

UMKC Vision Research Center receives NIH award to promote diversity in health-related research as part of ongoing glaucoma studies

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the UMKC Vision Research Center a new $120,399 grant that promotes the training of researchers from diverse backgrounds as part of ongoing research projects to develop novel glaucoma therapies.

Funded through the NIH’s National Eye Institute (NEI), the new funding is part of a larger NIH initiative to enhance the diversity of the research workforce. It will aid in recruiting and supporting students, postdoctorates and eligible investigators from diverse backgrounds including those from racial and ethnic groups that have been shown to be underrepresented in health-related research.

“We are pleased to receive this support from the NIH,” said Peter Koulen, Ph.D., director of the Vision Research Center. “This funding is a substantial contribution to our mission to provide a more diverse workforce in biomedicine and the overall mission to discover new and improved treatments and therapies for vision health world-wide.”

The funding is part of Koulen’s NEI-supported program exploring novel therapeutic strategies to preserve the viability and function of the nerve cells of the retina affected by glaucoma. The research targets a novel mechanism of nerve cell protection utilizing intracellular calcium signaling as a drug target to treat degeneration of nerve cells in glaucoma.

“The new award is part of research that will allow us to generate data needed for the development of novel glaucoma drugs to complement existing therapies targeting abnormally high pressure in the eye,” Koulen said. Koulen and his team at the Vision Research Center received a $1.16 million NIH grant earlier this year to investigate a mechanism that allows nerve cells to communicate effectively and could lead to the development of such new treatments for glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a major cause of irreversible vision loss and blindness in the United States and worldwide. The disease causes degeneration of the retina and optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. Preventing such degeneration and the death of affected cells is currently the only feasible way to prevent vision loss due to glaucoma.

In the past year, Koulen has won two other major NIH research grants. His current study of new chemical compounds to treat and prevent age-related macular degeneration received a $1.16 million grant. He is also part of an innovative $1.5 million project exploring a novel tissue-preservation method that could help meet far-reaching clinical needs in ophthalmology and other fields of medicine

This glaucoma research will focus on alternative strategies directly targeting the damaging effects of the disease on the retina and optic nerve.

“Just like elevated blood pressure predisposes patients to stroke, high pressure inside the eye is a predisposing factor for glaucoma,” Koulen said. “There are currently several therapies available to patients to reduce abnormally high eye pressure, but when these therapies fail or cease to be effective, glaucoma and the accompanying vision loss continue to progress.”

Koulen’s project, including the new award to promote diversity in health-related research, will determine how to boost the cell-to-cell communication that retinal nerve cells use to defend themselves from disease and injury. The hope is this will protect these cells from the damaging effects of glaucoma.

If successful, Koulen’s research will result in new drug candidates that would contribute to “neuroprotection” as a strategy to treat and prevent glaucoma.

New therapies could potentially act in concert with current eye pressure lowering drugs. Other areas of medicine, such as cancer treatment, have effectively employed the concept of using complementary drug action in combination therapies.

Dr. John Lantos answers question, ‘Do we still need doctors?’

Dr. John Lantos

Doctors have been around since the beginning of human civilization. But are they still necessary today?

John Lantos, M.D., director of the Bioethics Center at Children’s Mercy Kansas City Hospital, broached the subject on Dec. 10 as keynote speaker at the School of Medicine’s annual Noback-Burton Lectureship.

For much of early civilization, doctors offered little more than a caring bedside presence, Lantos said. Advanced medical science, however, changes the way people think about doctors and what they can do.

School of Medicine founding dean Richardson K. Noback, M.D., for whom the annual lectureship is named, once described the doctor as a morally responsible problem solver on behalf of people experiencing difficulty.

Lantos asked to imagine what would happen if artificial intelligence could be used to remove from doctors the moral responsibility of making decisions. Similarly, he asked, if algorithms can be developed to solve many of the problems that doctors use their minds to discern, will we still need doctors?

He quoted Eric Topol, noted cardiologist and former head of the Cleveland Clinic and Scripps Institute for Translational Research, with the answer.

“We will still need doctors to give the human touch,” Lantos said. “We still need doctors to provide empathy.”

Lantos said doctors still need to learn how to have difficult conversations with their patients. Where the tools to keep people alive were previously not available, doctors today can keep people alive while their bodies are failing.

“The result is that almost every decision about death is preceded by a decision made by doctors, patients and family members about when and whether to withhold or withdraw potentially life-prolonging medical treatment,” Lantos said. “That is a skill that doctors didn’t used to have, didn’t use to need. Now it is a crucial part of medicine.”

Patients still want their doctors to know them as individuals, Lantos said. And doctors, in many cases, want to know their patients as individuals.

“To imagine that we will always fail seems like it might be a pessimistic view, but it’s not,” Lantos said. “It doesn’t negate the remarkable achievements of medicine. It does, however, suggest that the role of the doctor has changed dramatically. Maybe the doctor’s expectations about the role and nature of their work no longer aligns with the work they actually do.”

The Noback-Burton Lectureship was established in 2016 to honor Noback, the school’s inaugural dean and Jerry Burton, M.D. ’73, who is recognized as the first graduate of the medical school.

Grant will help Black churches fight COVID-19

Berkley-Patton, JanetteCOVID-19 has infected, hospitalized and killed Black Americans at a higher rate compared with whites. As it has with other health disparities, the University of Missouri-Kansas City is going to partner with churches to fight this one. The National Institutes of Health has awarded UMKC a two-year, $1.9 million grant to do so as part of its Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics-Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) initiative.

“By working with 16 churches, which are trusted institutions in the African American community, we will greatly expand COVID-19 testing opportunities and access to care in low-income areas of Kansas City,” said Jannette Berkley-Patton, Ph.D., principal investigator of the grant, director of the UMKC Health Equity Institute and a professor at the School of Medicine. “This RADx-UP grant will help people who probably never would have gotten tested get the support they need.”

The team of investigators on the grant are from UMKC, Children’s Mercy, University of Kansas Medical Center, University of Massachusetts, University of California-San Francisco and Johns Hopkins University. In addition to churches and their leaders and members, they will work in partnership with Calvary Community Outreach Network and the Kansas City Health Department for testing, contact tracing and linkage to care services.

“By working with 16 churches, which are trusted institutions in the African American community, we will greatly expand COVID-19 testing opportunities and access to care in low-income areas of Kansas City. This RADx-UP grant will help people who probably never would have gotten tested get the support they need.” – Jannette Berkley-Patton

“One of our aims with the grant is to not only expand testing but to also help get the community prepared for the vaccine,” said Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., an investigator of the grant, dean of the UMKC School of Medicine and an infectious disease expert at Children’s Mercy. “Vaccine confidence relies on trust and transparent communication of vaccine science and safety. The mistrust among people of color about the COVID-19 vaccine stems back toward experience in other research impacting this population, namely the Tuskegee trials in 1932 to study syphilis where Black males were not provided treatment.”

Key social determinants contribute to the disparities for Blacks and COVID-19 including essential public-facing jobs, cultural norms like medical and contact tracing mistrust and limited access to health care. African Americans also have a high burden of chronic health conditions including obesity, diabetes and heart disease, which put them at an increased risk for COVID-19.

Studies, including UMKC investigations led by Berkley-Patton, have shown that community-engaged research with African American churches has led to health screening uptake for HIV and STD testing and reducing risks for diabetes. Yet, no proven COVID-19 testing interventions exist for African American churches, which have wide reach and influence in their communities, high attendance rates and supportive health and social services for community members.

At churches, the grant aims to reach people through sermons, testimonials, church bulletins, and text messages. This also includes faith leaders promoting testing – and getting tested in front of their congregations – so that people can actually see what the testing process looks like.

To date, Berkley-Patton’s work has been supported by more than $12 million in federal grants over the past 14 years. The community-engaged research she has conducted in partnership with faith communities has benefited people in the Kansas City area as well as Alabama and Jamaica.

“At UMKC, we fight racial inequity at all levels, and that includes life-saving health care at our public urban research university,” said UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal. “We are proud of the work Dr. Berkley-Patton is leading through proven strategies at places of worship. We know this team of investigators and their partners will help keep our community safer from COVID-19.”

UMKC Trustees honor SOM’s Peter Koulen for distinguished work in research

Koulen, PeterThe UMKC Board of Trustees has selected UMKC School of Medicine’s vision and neuroscience researcher Peter Koulen, Ph.D., as the recipient of the 2020 UMKC Trustees’ Faculty Fellow Award.

Dr . Koulen is the school’s Felix and Carmen Sabates/Missouri Endowed Chair in Vision Research and serves as director of basic research at the Vision Research Center. Under his guidance, the research center and the UMKC Department of Ophthalmology have secured millions of dollars in grants from the National Institutes of Health and other recognized sources for their groundbreaking work in developing technology and therapies to recognize and treat chronic diseases of the eye and brain.

He has been awarded more than 50 extramural grants totaling over $15 million, and he recently was the recipient of two R01 NIH/NEI awards totaling over $4 million. With a focus on the retina as part of the central nervous system, he has peer-reviewed publications in more than 100 prestigious journals including International Journal Molecular Science, Journal of Cell Science, Cellular Molecular Neurobiology, and Neuroscience. He also has been awarded three patents.

A member of an NIH study section committee, and active reviewer for prestigious scientific journals, he has been the recipient of more than 20 awards and honors since joining our School of Medicine, including recognition as the NT Veatch Award for Research and Creativity in 2013. Dr. Koulen’s work has been acknowledged worldwide. The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, a global organization of researchers, honored Koulen as a member of its 2018 Fellows Class.

He also serves as a mentor and sponsor for students involved in research and he has effectively launched the careers of the next generation of physician scientists. His mentorship has placed graduates in highly competitive research environments such as NIH, FDA, Harvard Medical School, Alcon Laboratories, Fresenius and numerous others.

“I am impressed that Dr. Koulen contributes with passion, grace and enthusiasm and that he truly represents what a faculty scholar should exemplify,” said School of Medicine Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D.. “It is my pleasure to call him a colleague and to work with him at our University.”

Each year, UMKC’s Board of Trustees selects an established faculty member for the Faculty Fellow Award to honor a nationally and internationally recognized record of research and creative achievements at UMKC.

Yusheng Liu, Ph.D., vice chancellor for research in the Office of Research and Economic Development, said the award helps the university enhance and pursue its goal to be a major urban research university with excellence, creativity, and scholarship across all disciplines.

 

 

UMKC SOM grad’s study on gun suicide wins national award

Dr. Apurva BhattA research study by UMKC School of Medicine graduate Apurva Bhatt, M.D. ’17, shows the number of Missouri residents who use a gun to commit suicide has steadily increased during the past decade. A third-year UMKC psychiatry resident, Bhatt won the 2020 American Psychiatric Association national poster competition with her study of Missouri adolescent and youth suicides with firearms.

The competition is typically part of the APA annual meeting in the spring but took place later this year as a virtual event.

Bhatt and co-authors Chadwick Yip, a UMCK medical student, and Luke Beyer and Kalee Morris, students at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, received the national award for their study that found dramatic increased in the number of gun-related suicides in Missouri, and particularly among those 15-24 years old. The study concluded that changes in Missouri gun laws could be contributing to the increase.

Bhatt is also the lead author of a research paper published Nov. 4 on the Journal of the American Medical Association web site on the study entitled, “Association of Changes in Missouri Firearm Laws With Adolescent and Young Adult Suicides by Firearms.” The article says that changes in Missouri’s permit-to-purchase and concealed carry firearm laws may have contributed to increased rates of firearm suicides in young Missouri residents.

 

 

SOM faculty recognized with annual awards, promotions

School of Medicine faculty took the spotlight during an Oct. 28 program to honor those receiving the school’s annual faculty awards and the recognition of 73 faculty members who received promotions and tenure.

The list of honorees included 58 faculty members who have been promoted to the rank of associate professor and 15 who were promoted to professor. Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the ceremony took place as a virtual celebration.

This year’s event recognized eight faculty with special honors for their outstanding contributions, including two new awards.

Clinical Affiliate Teaching Award
Emily Hillman, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine, received the first Clinical Affiliate Teaching Award. The honor celebrates a faculty member who is recognized for clinical teaching of medical students, graduate program students and/or graduate medical education residents and fellows at one of the school’s major clinical affiliates.

Hillman serves as director of simulation education at the school’s Clinical Training Facility as well as associate director of the emergency medicine residency program and director of the emergency medicine medical education fellowship.

Faculty Researcher Award
John Q. Wang, Ph.D., professor and endowed chair for research, received the school’s first Faculty Research Award. The honor recognizes faculty for clinical and/or bench research that contributes to the advancement of medicine, demonstrates collaboration and mentoring of medical students, residents/fellows, and/or graduate students and faculty, and also enhances the research reputation of the School of Medicine.

Excellence in Diversity & Health Equity in Medicine Award
Molly Uhlenhake, D.O., assistant professor of medicine and Red 7 Docent, receive the award that recognizes faculty engaged in efforts to create a more inclusive institutional culture that promotes success for all. It also recognizes efforts to advance the understanding of health equity, health disparities, cultural competence in medicine, and greater access and opportunities for our surrounding community.

Christopher Papasian, Ph.D., Excellence in Teaching Award
Darla McCarthy, Ph.D., associate professor of basic medical sciences and assistant dean for curriculum, received the honor for a faculty member who has contributed to medical student pre-clinical education innovation at the School of Medicine.

Louise E. Arnold, Ph.D., Excellence in Medical Education Research Award
Gary Sutkin, M.D., professor and associate dean of women’s health, received the award that acknowledges and celebrates a faculty member who has contributed and influenced the advancement of medical education innovation through scholarship and research.

Betty M. Drees, M.D., Excellence in Mentoring Awards
Fariha Shafi, M.D., associate professor of medicine, Gold 6 and Gold 7 Docent, received the 2020 Excellence in Mentoring Award. Peter Koulen, Ph.D., professor, endowed chair and director of basic research at the Vision Research Center, was honored with the Lifetime in Mentoring Award.

The mentoring awards are given annually to celebrate both a junior and a senior faculty member who have made significant contributions to enhancing and developing the careers of faculty trainees as a mentor through their generosity, listening, objectivity and by providing constructive feedback regarding career and professional and personal development.

UMKC Elmer F. Pierson Good Teaching Award
Jennifer Quaintance, Ph.D., associate research professor and assistant dean for assessment and quality improvement, was honored with the university-wide award recognizing outstanding teachers in the Black School and the schools of medicine, dentistry and law.

School of Medicine announces new assistant dean for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

The School of Medicine announced that Doris C. Agwu, M.P.H., will serve in the new position of assistant dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Agwu has 11 years of experience with diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in academics, business and community work. Under the leadership of associate dean Tyler Smith, M.D., Agwu will work to expand the school’s focus on current diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Her new role will also include implementing new programs to recruit, educate and serve students, residents and faculty, and emphasize initiatives to ensure a positive learning environment.

At the University of Missouri-Columbia, Agwu earned a bachelor of arts in psychology, a bachelor of science in biology, a minor in business administration and a master’s degree in public health. She served as a research specialist at the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing where she created strategies to address the health care needs of rural Missouri women over the age of 50. She also has served as medical department chair for Bryan University in Columbia, where she spearheaded diversity and inclusion initiatives, taught multiple courses and managed more than 20 direct reports.

In her most recent role as director of engagement and coordinator of underrepresented minority student recruitment at the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Arts and Sciences, she worked to drive inclusion, diversity and equity strategies through best practices to ensure an inclusive culture. She implemented long-term strategic outreach efforts for the college, and collaborated with senior leaders and key stakeholders on state and community programming.

A 2019 recipient of the University G.O.L.D. award for service to the alumni community, Agwu is the vice president of the Mizzou Black Alumni Network. She is also membership co-chair of the Griffiths Leadership Society for Women. She was selected as a member of the new, chancellor-appointed Equity Resolution Hearing Panel and is a charter member of the central Missouri chapter of The Links, Incorporated, serving as the technology/PR/communication chair.

Agwu said she understands the needs of all students to address issues of marginalization.

“I want all Black students to know that their lives matter,” Agwu said. “I want all students of color, including Asian, Hispanic/Latinx and indigenous students, to know their cultures and unique experiences are significant. I want all women to know they have autonomy over their bodies. I want all LGBTQIA students to feel embraced and supported, and for students with disabilities, that they can access everything.”