Tag Archives: Research

UMKC’s Som Singh invited to present research on sports injuries at international conference

Med student Som Singh, left, is helping lead a study group that monitors injuries to U.S. rugby players. He is pictured with Dr. Victor Lopez Jr., Dr. Alex Metoxen (UMKC Orthopedic Surgery Resident), Dr. Sean Bonnani (UMKC Orthopedic Surgery Resident), and Chizitam Ibezim (2020 UMKC medical school graduate).

Like many young, aspiring athletes, Som Singh saw his football career end early with an injury during high school. Yet, his love for sports never waned. Now, it could be taking the fourth-year UMKC medical student to the European College of Sports Science in Spain next fall to present as lead author of a research project on rugby player injuries.

His work is part of a project affiliated with the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and the Rugby Research and Injury Prevention Group (RRIPG) that has been monitoring U.S. Rugby Club-Sevens player injuries and performance.

“The culture of sports has always had an impact on me and I wanted to stay around sports,” Singh said.

When he first came to the School of Medicine, Singh used what free time he had to help as a volunteer assistant football coach at a local high school. While coaching, he realized the hunger to be connected to sports still burned.

“Coaching players was cool, teaching, talking to the players,” Singh said. “That aspect of teaching sports was unique and it led me to seek out other things I could do to combine sports and medicine.”

About a year ago, a national rugby tournament came to Kansas City. Dr. Victor Lopez Jr., founder and executive director of the RRIPG in New York, arrived as well to study the players on the field, monitoring their injuries and the effects on their performance. Lopez was also looking for medical students and residents to help with his project. A UMKC orthopaedic surgery resident who knew both Lopez and Singh introduced the two.

Singh began working on the sidelines in the medical tents and soon became the assistant national study coordinator for the group, attending countless rugby matches and collecting injury data.

His report, which was based on a five-year analysis of medical costs related to player injuries sustained in U.S. Rugby-Sevens regional tournaments, caught the eye of the European College of Sports Sciences.

He said his findings could serve as a profile of the financial impact that sports injuries have on both men and women players. Much like the National Football League has done in developing its concussion protocols, Singh said his data could also serve as a tool for national U.S. Rugby-Sevens to improve player welfare and safety.

“It is a growing collision sport,” Singh said of rugby.

Singh also is co-author of two other group abstracts that were selected for presentation at the international conference in Seville, Spain – assuming limitations brought by the novel coronavirus are lifted and allow the conference to take place.

In addition to Lopez, the project has Singh working closely with Dr. Richard Ma, Gregory L. and Ann L. Hummel Distinguished Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery Missouri Orthopaedic Institute at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and Dr. Answorth Allen, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and team doctor for the NBA’s New York Knicks.

Singh said he doesn’t plan to let up on his injury prevention research with the group anytime soon.

“We have plenty of studies coming up,” he said. “I’m booked for the next couple of years. We’re continuing to grow and understand more about sports injuries.”

For UMKC medical student and entrepreneur Fahad Qureshi, health care connects it all

Driven. Creative. Optimistic. Curious. Determined. Smart. Happy. These are common traits found in successful entrepreneurs. All of them are found in Fahad Qureshi.

A third-year medical student at UMKC, Qureshi took third place in the UM System Entrepreneurship Quest Pitch Competition, where 20 student teams from across the four campuses presented innovative business ventures.

Qureshi is the founder and creator of Vest Heroes, which uses a system of pulleys and levers in the operating room to relieve surgeons from bearing weighted lead X-ray skirts and vests during long procedures. Wearing the vests are required by law and protect health care professionals from radioactive exposure. But they are heavy – between 30 and 69 pounds – and can hinder mobility.

Qureshi wasn’t nervous during the final rounds of competition, as he’s had the idea for a long time and knows the product well. In fact, his invention is patent-pending, and he’s launched a company to fulfill orders for 100 vests that will be used throughout the country. “I strongly believe in the idea,” he said, “and it was great to get affirmation from the judges. To know it’s real and it’s working – I feel good about that.”

As a child, Qureshi had a good friend who died during an operation following a bad accident. He heard the surgeon say that wearing his 60-pound vest made it hard for him to make movements during his friend’s operation – and that’s something he never forgot.

While finding a way to reduce the weight of these vests has been in his head for a long time – “10 to 12 years, maybe more” – he didn’t have the background needed to solve it … until medical school.

Once at UMKC, he gained academic understanding, expanded his medical knowledge, got into the operating room and participated in an engineering apprenticeship, completely independent of the School of Medicine.

“Just because you are practicing medicine doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else,” he said. “I wasn’t looking for credit, I was looking for knowledge.”

He also found a local engineering firm to help out.

“When you have an interdisciplinary approach, that’s when you can really solve problems. Without medicine, I wouldn’t know what to build,” he said. “Without engineering, I wouldn’t know how to build it.”

In addition, Qureshi reached out to various physicians to get their opinions – how to improve the vest, how to grow consumer interest, what did and didn’t work well. His biggest support has come from Bogdan Derylo, M.D., a nephrologist from his hometown of Chicago and Akin Cil, M.D., UMKC professor and the Franklin D. Dickson/Missouri Endowed Chair in orthopaedic surgery.

“All of the feedback received was terrific,” Qureshi said. “The final model is a culmination of all the suggestions they provided.”

Qureshi, who worked minimum-wage jobs to fund the company so he can retain full equity, says mass distribution is his ultimate goal. He’s currently working with a Chinese manufacturer to help produce large numbers of the Vest Heroes, although that is sidelined now due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Any doctor or health care professional that uses radiation has a need for this,” he said. “There’s really no downside to using it – it’s a necessity, as I see it.”

There’s no doubt that Qureshi’s entrepreneurial spirit motivates him, but he sees health care connecting it all. As for his future, he plans “100 percent to practice medicine.” And part of that plan includes research, his company and teaching the next generation of doctors.

“When you choose what you do every day, it should be something that makes you happy. Going to work shouldn’t be scary or dreaded. If your work makes you happy, you’re doing something right.”

In addition to Qureshi, the UMKC teams presenting pitches during the final competition were Greyson Twist, Ph.D., bioinformatics and computer science major presenting his Genalytic project; and Kyle McAllister, business administration graduate student presenting his company Compost Collective KC.

UMKC Researcher Awarded $3.3 Million Grant to Prevent Diabetes

The National Institutes of Health awarded a $3.3 million grant to Jannette Berkley-Patton, professor, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, to help improve diabetes prevention outcomes with African Americans.

“This is an extension of what we’ve been doing in the School of Medicine with Project FIT, which stands for Faith Influencing Transformation” says Berkley-Patton, Ph.D., director of the UMKC Health Equity Institute and the Community Health Research Group. With Project FIT, nearly 900 people have participated in the program and more than 200 medical, physician assistant, nursing and health studies and psychology students have been trained as FIT health coaches to help deliver the program.

At UMKC, Berkley-Patton has won other significant grants that focus on improving the health of African Americans, and each centers on health inequities and community-engaged research with African American community-based organizations, including places of worship because of their cultural importance. This new five-year grant, which starts on April 1, will include similar strategies. To date, Berkley-Patton’s work has been supported by more than $10 million in federal grants over the past 14 years.

The grant will tailor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Prevention Program, an evidence-based lifestyle change intervention, with 360 African American pre-diabetic participants recruited from Truman Medical Centers. The program includes 22 group sessions that take place over one year and primarily focuses on eating healthier and exercising regularly.

Preventing diabetes can help stave off other associated chronic health issues including blindness, kidney failure and heart disease.

People who participate in the CDC program aim to lose 5 to 7 percent of their body weight and exercise 150 minutes per week, which have been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes by up to 60 percent. The program has also been found to outperform pre-diabetes drugs such as Metformin.

However, African Americans typically don’t fare as well, especially women and those with low incomes. Some of the issues include barriers such as cost of the program, transportation, childcare, access to healthy food and places to exercise. These barriers are often referred to as social determinants of health.

“With the grant, we’re trying to address every barrier related to social determinants,” Berkley-Patton said. “The most successful outcomes are correlated with attending the sessions – the more sessions attended, the better the outcomes.”

The grant will support linking Truman Medical Centers patients to FIT Diabetes Prevention Program classes in their home communities via church, community center or neighborhood association settings. The program will be culturally-tailored for African American adults. The program is at no cost to the participant – typically it costs $450 per year. In addition to Truman Medical Centers, program partners include several urban Kansas City churches, Calvary Outreach Network, YMCA, Chestnut Resource Center, KC Care Health Center, Children’s Mercy and the University of Kansas.

Although the grant begins this week during a pandemic that has Americans sheltering in place and working from home, the first year of the grant is a planning year.

“With this grant, we are looking forward to further refining our current Project FIT program to have trained UMKC students and community members working side-by-side as FIT coaches,” says Carole Bowe Thompson, project director, UMKC Community Health Research Group.

The program will be launched by this time next year.

“We are looking forward to getting started,” Berkley-Patton said. “We want to show participants that here’s a premiere program designed just for you.”

UMKC researcher helped lead studies published in New England Journal of Medicine

UMKC School of Medicine researcher John Spertus, M.D., M.P.H., is part of two large NIH-funded clinical studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Monday, March 30. The studies indicate eliminating unnecessary revascularization treatments for cardiac patients could save the United States hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Spertus serves as professor of medicine and Daniel J. Lauer, M.D., Endowed Chair in Metabolism and Vascular Disease Research at the School of Medicine, and Clinical Director of Outcomes Research at Saint Luke’s Hospital.

The studies looked specifically at coronary artery disease patients who had high-risk blockages with least 10 percent or more of the heart muscle being at risk. One focused on patients with preserved kidney function and the other targeted patients with end-stage kidney failure. That latter group has largely been excluded from almost all cardiovascular trials, despite having a high prevalence of coronary artery disease and death, Spertus said.

Both studies, conducted in unison, examined the most important outcomes for patients, clinical events (e.g. heart attacks, death) and patients’ symptoms, function and quality of life. Participants were randomized to undergo invasive angiography and revascularization with aggressive medical therapy or aggressive medical therapy alone. The goals of the medical treatment were cholesterol reduction, blood pressure control, aspirin and medications to treat chest pain.

The studies in patients with preserved kidney function showed that invasive medical procedures provided no reduction in clinical events, but did improve patients’ symptoms and quality of life, if they had chest pain within a month of entering the trial. These health status benefits were evident within three months and sustained out to four years.

“Importantly, this benefit was only observed in patients who had angina, chest pain, and not in asymptomatic patients,” Spertus said. “There is no indication for these procedures in patients whose symptoms are well-controlled with medications alone. If we avoided revascularization in asymptomatic patients, we could potentially save about $500 million to $750 million a year in the United States alone.”

Among patients with very severe kidney disease, there was no significant difference in clinical events or in patients’ symptoms and quality of life.

“While disappointing, this is a very ill patient population for whom an aggressive, invasive treatment strategy does not seem to offer much benefit,” Spertus said.

The NEJM is publishing four papers from these studies on March 30, one for each trial focusing on the clinical events and another for each trial focusing on the quality of life outcomes. Spertus was involved in writing all four and is the lead author on the two quality of life papers. He and his team designed, analyzed and led the health status, quality of life components of both trials.

Spertus is the author of the Seattle Angina Questionnaire (SAQ) that used in the studies. It is widely recognized throughout the world as the gold standard for quality of life measurement in cardiac medicine.

“Our group has led its use and analyses in multiple studies and quality improvement efforts,” Spertus said. “In light of these findings, the SAQ may start becoming a routine part of clinical care in cardiology.”

Vision researcher awarded $1.16 million grant to battle glaucoma

UMKC School of Medicine vision researcher Peter Koulen, Ph.D., has received a $1.16 million grant for a study to battle vision loss and blindness.

Backed by the National Institutes of Health National Eye Institute, his research will investigate how a mechanism that allows nerve cells to communicate effectively could lead to the development of 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 in the retina and optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. Preventing the death of these 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 new 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,” said Koulen, professor of ophthalmology and director of basic research at the Vision Research Center. “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 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.

SOM researcher working to prevent age-related vision loss

Backed by a $1.16 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, UMKC School of Medicine vision researcher Peter Koulen, Ph.D., is studying new chemical compounds to treat and prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and blindness among older adults. As many as 11 million people in the United States have some form of age-related macular degeneration.

“AMD affects a significant and increasing portion of the U.S. population, with age being a predisposing factor,” said Koulen, director of basic research at UMKC’s Vision Research Center. “This research will contribute to improving health care and the prevention of blindness.”

His project, funded by the NIH National Eye Institute, will focus on the preclinical development of novel antioxidants that have the potential to be both preventative and therapeutic in nature. The compounds could prevent the deterioration and death of retina nerve cells and supporting cells. The retina cannot regenerate these cells, therefore, their loss as a result of AMD leads to irreversible damage to one’s vision.

If successful, these new antioxidants being developed by Koulen’s research would be effective in both preventing the disease from progressing and treating already existing damage.

The research focuses on dry AMD, a form of the disease that affects the majority of patients. Effective therapies are lacking for this form of the disease, in which cells are gradually lost over time resulting in blindness.

Medications developed as a result of the study could also complement existing treatment designs for the wet form of AMD that is more aggressive and affects a smaller number of patients.

UMKC researcher part of $1.5-million NIH grant-funded project on novel tissue-preservation technique

A new technique of crypreservation being studied by UMKC researcher Peter Koulen, Ph.D., could make human cell tissues such as the cornea tissues pictured more readily available for transplant.

Surgeons world-wide currently perform more than 240,000 corneal transplants a year to address a wide range of eye diseases. Researchers and physicians, however, estimate as many as 10 million patients could benefit from the procedure if enough viable tissue was available.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City Vision Research Center is part of a $1.5-million National Institutes of Health grant-funded project exploring the capability of a novel, ultra-fast technique of cryopreservation that could help meet those far-reaching clinical needs in ophthalmology and a number of other fields of medicine.

The NIH awarded a phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to CryoCrate, a Columbia, Missouri-based company active in biomedicine working with the University of Missouri-Kansas City Vision Research Center. The new two-year award is for $1,566,168 and includes a subcontract of $722,870 to UMKC’s Vision Research Center. It is a follow-up grant to previous phase I SBIR funding from the NIH for earlier collaborative work between CyroCrate and UMKC.

With current techniques, many types of cells and tissues, including cornea tissues, cannot be preserved at all or lose their function when subjected to the freeze-thaw process of cryopreservation. Peter Koulen, Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology, endowed chair in vision research at the UMKC School of Medicine and director of basic research at the UMKC Vision Research Center, and Xu Han, Ph.D., president and Chief Technology Officer of CryoCrate, jointly developed a new cryopreservation technique to preserve the viability and functionality of cornea and bioartificial ocular tissues. The new phase II SBIR funding will allow Han and Koulen to extensively test and refine the technology before taking it to the clinics.

Thus far, traditional methods of cryopreservation have been unsuccessful to preserve and store human corneas for use in patients due to the fact that cells critical for cornea function are lost during freezing. Corneas need adequate numbers of such cells to be present and properly functioning in the grafted tissue for the surgery to be successful. This currently limits storage of corneas to refrigeration, which is insufficient in delaying the deterioration of cornea tissue beyond a few days and creates numerous clinical challenges shared by other areas of transplantation.

CryoCrate is headquartered at the Missouri Innovation Center. It commercializes a new cooling method that better preserves tissue in a frozen state with only negligible mechanical damage to the tissue. The technology is co-developed and co-owned by CryoCrate and UMKC. It also eliminates the need for so called cryoprotectants, chemicals that facilitate successful recovery of live tissue from freezing, but pose a range of medical and regulatory challenges. International patents pending and patents by CryoCrate and UMKC protect the technology and will enable CryoCrate and Koulen’s team at UMKC to address the urgent worldwide clinical needs and rapidly evolving fields of transplantation medicine.

The new NIH SBIR phase II grant allows Han and Koulen to further develop an upgraded system that is equally effective in the cryopreservation of whole corneas and large bioartificial tissue. This would enable long-term storage of the tissues and could make them more readily available when and where needed for clinical use and research.

Early tests at the UMKC Vision Research Center detected no statistical difference in the number and quality of the cells that determine cornea health and function, when comparing corneas cryopreserved using the new technology with fresh cornea tissue. This level of efficiency in preserving corneal tissue has not been achieved previously with traditional corneal cryopreservation techniques.

If further tests prove to be equally effective, the goal is to introduce the new cryopreservation products for clinical use in patients following completion of the new NIH SBIR phase II grant and subsequent regulatory steps of product development.

 

 

 

 

American Academy of Pediatrics to honor SOM’s Dr. Mary Anne Jackson

Jackson, Mary Anne
Mary Anne Jackson, M.D.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Infectious Diseases Executive Committee has chosen to recognize UMKC School of Medicine Interim Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., with the 2019 Award for Lifetime Contribution in Infectious Diseases Education.

The award recognizes her outstanding commitment to educating pediatricians in infectious diseases, her work as associate editor of the Red Book, the foremost source on pediatric infectious disease, and her efforts on a national level with groups such as the National Vaccine Advisory Committee.

Jackson is recognized locally, regionally and nationally as a master clinician and educator on the topic of pediatric infectious diseases. A pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Kansas City for 35 years, she is widely recognized for developing one of the nation’s leading and most robust infectious diseases programs. The division focuses on research to prevent antibiotic resistance, judicious use of antibiotics, and optimal use of vaccines.

She is also passionate about medical education including developing a fellowship program to train pediatric infectious diseases doctors. And she is active in research collaborations with foundations including the CDC and the NIH to investigate the impact of new vaccines. Among her many achievements while division director has been the description of a national outbreak of the polio-like virus called enterovirus D68.

A mentor to many residents, fellow trainees and others in pediatric fields, Jackson often guides others to access leadership roles in the fields of pediatric infectious diseases, child abuse and mistreatment, and general pediatrics.

She was appointed interim dean of the School of Medicine in June 2018, becoming the first graduate of the program to become dean and one of only 26 female medical school deans in the nation. In that role, she has begun a transformation of programs to enhance student and faculty engagement, worked to find solutions to ongoing issues, and has continued her commitment to pediatric infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy. She was also recently appointed the Special Advisor to the Chancellor on Health Affairs and will assist in the current search for a new dean.

The American Academy of Pediatrics honored Jackson with the lifetime achievement award on Oct. 28 during its national conference and exhibition in New Orleans.

Thirty Million Words initiative founder presents annual Sirridge Lecture

Dana Suskind, M.D., presented the 2019 William and Marjorie Sirridge Lecture on Sept. 19.

One of the best things parents can do for their young children to help them succeed in life is to talk to them. A lot.

Dana Suskind, M.D., has spent much of the past nine years advocating for early childhood development by focusing on the importance of language and the power of parent-talk and interaction to build children’s brains. The 1992 graduate of the UMKC School of Medicine discussed her career path at the 2019 William and Marjorie Sirridge Lecture on Thursday, Sept. 19, at the School of Medicine.

A professor of surgery and pediatrics at the University of Chicago and director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implantation, Suskind is founder and co-director of TMW (Thirty Million Words) Center for Early Learning + Public Health. The program offers evidence-based interventions to optimize brain development in children from birth to five years of age, particularly those born into poverty. It combines education, technology and behavioral strategies for parents and caregivers to enhance the verbal interactions with their children.

As a cochlear implant surgeon, Suskind realized vast differences in her patients after undergoing the implant. Some grew to talk and communicate well while others didn’t. The gap resulted not only in some children having a much smaller vocabulary, but also impacted their IQ and test scores in the third grade.

While cochlear implants brought sound to a child’s brain, Suskind found that something else was needed to make that sound have meaning.

“I came to realize that during their first three years, the power of language is the power to build a child’s brain,” she said.

Suskind pointed out that most of the organs in the human body are fully formed at birth. That’s not so with the brain, which doesn’t fully develop for many years after birth. She said the brain is particularly active and rapidly developing during the first three years, making it important for young children to grow up in a language-rich environment.

“At no other time in life will brain development be so robust and active,” Suskind said.

In 2014, she wrote Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain. The book describes her study of how children develop communication skills and how those who thrive live in households where they hear millions of spoken words. Her book reached the number one spot on Amazon’s best-seller’s list for parenting and family reference.

Following medical school, Suskind completed her residency at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital and a fellowship at Washington University Children’s Hospital.

She has received many awards for her work including the Weizmann Women for Science Vision and Impact Award, the SENTAC Gray Humanitarian Award, the LENA Research Foundation Making a Difference Award, the 2018 Chairman’s Award from the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the John D. Arnold, M.D., Mentor Award for Sustained Excellence from the Pritzker School of Medicine.

The Sirridge Lecture is named for William T. Sirridge, M.D., and his wife, Marjorie S. Sirridge, M.D., two of the UMKC School of Medicine’s original docents. The Sirridges viewed the humanities as an essential part of students’ medical training. In 1992, they established the Sirridge Office of Medical Humanities and Bioethics to merge the humanities with the science of medicine. Today, the school recognizes their dedication, compassion and advancement of patient care and medical education in Kansas City with the William and Marjorie Sirridge Lecture.