Tag Archives: Research

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 a 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.

Subhjit Sekhon awarded fellowship in tropical medicine

Subhjit Sekhon

Through a previous medical outreach journey to Nicaragua, Subhjit Sekhon saw first-hand the dire need for health care services in some of the remote and underserved areas of the world.

The UMKC School of Medicine sixth-year medical student recently received a travel fellowship award from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene to go back to Latin America to study the risk factors and sociodemographics associated with women suffering from cervical cancer.

“During a medical outreach trip to Nicaragua, I had the privilege of serving more than 900 patients from several remote and under-resourced villages,” Sekhon said. “For many it was their first experience with a health care professional. A majority wanted help for common complaints. By meeting basic health care needs, I developed a passion to help medically underserved areas and create sustainable health care solutions.”

Guatemala suffers one of the highest rates of cervical cancer among women in Latin America with more than 22 in every 100,000 women diagnosed and more than 12 in every 100,000 women who die of the disease each year.

Sekhon will travel with colleagues from Washington University in St. Louis to work at La Liga Nacional Contra el Cancer (INCAN) in Guatemala City, the largest cancer referral center in the country. It is the only comprehensive cancer treatment center in the region for the poor and underserved and provides care for more than one-fourth of all cancer patients in the country.

She said her research study will explore characteristics associated with noncompliance to treatment or follow up among women with a diagnosis of cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer. She will also assess barriers to treatment and analyze outcomes of treatment in patients treated at INCAN.

Sekhon was one of 26 students from 21 medical schools across the country to receive  the 2019 Benjamin H. Kean Travel Fellowship in Tropical Medicine. The annual award is the only medical student fellowship dedicated to promoting a career path in tropical medicine.

“My primary interest in tropical medicine is to understand the disease in totality of circumstances,” Sekhon said.

An exact time frame for her travel has yet to be worked out, but Sekhon said wants to learn more about the intersection between infection, biology, the patient and society.

“As a future physician-scientist, tropical medicine appeals to me because it equally weighs social determinants of health with the microbiological basis of disease, which I believe is the true way to treat a patient, conduct meaningful research, and implement health care change,” she said.

 

 

 

Leader in early language development to present 2019 Sirridge Lecture

Dr. Dana Suskind

Dana Suskind, M.D., a 1992 graduate of the School of Medicine and nationally recognized leader in early language development, will present to 2019 William and Marjorie Sirridge Annual Lecture on Sept. 19.

A professor of surgery and pediatrics at the University of Chicago, Susknid is the director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implantation Program and founder and co-director of TMW (Thirty Million Words) Center for Early Learning + Public Health.

As a surgeon performing cochlear implants in children, Suskind realized her patients’ language skills developed at far different rates. Through her research, she discovered that children who thrive hear millions of words during their early years and wrote a book on her work, Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain.

Through her Thirty Million Word Initiative, she developed an evidence-based intervention program that is intended to reduce the language gap between children in lower-income families and wealthier households. The program combines education, technology and behavioral strategies for parents and caregivers to enhance the verbal interactions with their children.

Following medical school at UMKC, 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.

William T. Sirridge, M.D., and his wife, Marjorie S. Sirridge, M.D., two of the UMKC School of Medicine’s original docents, viewed the humanities as an essential part of a 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.

Vision researcher receives grant to look at technology to detect traumatic brain injury

A diagnostic process used in routine eye exams could hold a key to early stage detection and long-term monitoring of subclinical and clinical traumatic brain injury.

The Leonard Wood Institute awarded a $383,837 grant to the UMKC School of Medicine to explore the use of microperimetry to detect changes in visual function that are the result of traumatic brain injury. The project’s principal investigator is Peter Koulen, Ph.D., director of basic research at the UMKC School of Medicine’s Vision Research Center in the Department of Ophthalmology.

Microperimetry measures the light sensitivity of the central retina. It is currently used in ophthalmology to identify damage to the retina and vision loss due to eye diseases.

“We’re not looking for treatments for traumatic brain injury. We’re looking for a quantitative method to detect the disease that tells the patient, your disease severity is a 9 out of 10 or a 2 out of 10,” Koulen said. “Being able to quantify the disease will help physicians to better evaluate their patients. And then, when there is a treatment, it will help evaluate the treatment as well.”

Interventions to prevent or stop traumatic brain injuries are most effective early in the disease, but are not possible without reliable and easily repeatable early stage identification and diagnosis.

Current tests to conclusively show subclinical, or non-recognizable, forms of traumatic brain injury and the degree of acute and long-term damage are typically costly and often imprecise without accurate baseline data.

Using the microperimetry technology, Koulen’s research will sample mild to moderately concussed patients, subclinical traumatic brain injury and non-concussed patients to achieve a baseline. That data will then be used to create a defined number of quantitative parameters and produce a specific fingerprint of functional changes in vision that allow the researcher to optimally perform early stage detection, grading and long-term monitoring of subclinical and clinical traumatic brain injury.

Koulen said the UMKC School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology and its Vision Research Center are uniquely positioned to conduct research on the new diagnostic technique because their faculty includes nationally recognized experts in the retina and neuro-ophthalmology sub-specialties.

If successful, the technology will ultimately enable diagnosis without invasive or subjective measures and will likely also enable an assessment of the severity and long-term impairment resulting from traumatic brain injury.

“Our technology will address this urgent clinical need,” Koulen said.

Grant-funded project will help Kansas City community take charge of its own vascular health

School of Medicine researcher Kim Smolderen, Ph.D., is leading a grant-funded project to raise community awareness of peripheral arterial disease.

A few years ago, Kansas City received the federal CHOICE grant to revitalize one of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods. Now, an effort by UMKC School of Medicine researcher Kim Smolderen, Ph.D., will support residents of the Paseo Gateway and surrounding neighborhoods to build on existing efforts to flourish in their communities.

With the backing of a new two-year, $300,000 Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute grant, Smolderen, is leading a project to raise community awareness of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and the cardiovascular risks associated with it.

More than 8.5 million Americans live with PAD, a narrowing of the peripheral arteries that occurs most commonly in the legs and often causes pain while walking. African Americans particularly are at risk of late diagnosis and related leg amputations in part because of a low awareness of the disease.

The project focuses on the Gateway Plaza area, specifically the Pendleton Heights, Paseo West and Independence Plaza neighborhoods that have some of the lowest life expectancy rates in Kansas City and Jackson County with their widely diverse communities including a growing immigrant population.

“These are the areas where people have to grapple with financial hardship,” said Smolderen, an assistant professor of Biomedical and Health Informatics. “Violence is a factor, poor housing conditions. These are typically overlooked areas that are dealing with a lot of challenges at the same time.”

Previous data from the American Heart Association also shows that knowledge and resources to improve vascular health are not widely accessible in inner-city neighborhoods characterized by these challenges, further predisposing them to PAD complications such as amputations.

The plan is to increase the awareness of PAD by presenting information to the community through a multi-faceted dissemination campaign including seminars and artwork by neighborhood artists promoting vascular health. Symposiums with community members will also serve to determine what issues impacting vascular disease are most concerning to those in their neighborhoods. Project and neighborhood leaders will then work together to create a list of available community resources that address the identified barriers. Common issues include insufficient resources to stop smoking, which is the leading risk factor for the disease, and needed exercise programs and facilities.

“We’re going to work with the community, not telling them what to do, but sharing with them what we have found and then let them tell us how we can help make connections in the community to implement that knowledge and do something with it that serves their needs,” Smolderen said.

The project will begin this summer with a workshop bringing together a steering committee that includes an array of collaborators from UMKC, Saint Luke’s Hospital, the UMKC Health Sciences District, Storytellers, Inc., the Paseo Gateway Initiative, the local American Heart Association, and PAD experts.

Students interested in community outreach activities are also being invited to contact Smolderen about potential research internships regarding the program.

She said the project will work in lockstep with the city as it continues to implement resources from the stimulus grant it received in 2015 to transform the neighborhood.

In addition to creating awareness and promoting cardiovascular health, Smolderen said the program could also become a template for those in other cities and neighborhoods to engage their city stakeholders and public health officials to focus on health problems facing their communities.

“If you enforce things on people, you only create resistance,” she said. “This is really to help people discover their own autonomy, creativity, and to find needed resources in their own community.”

Med School announces student research summit winners

Keerthi Gondi presents his winning poster to John Foxworth, Pharm.D., director of research at the 2019 UMKC Health Sciences Student Research Summit.

Keerthi Gondi, a fifth-year medical student, and Kathryn Kyler, a bioinformatics student, were selected as the School of Medicine’s winners of the 2019 Health Sciences Student Research Summit. This year’s research event on April 17 at the UMKC Student Union drew a record 66 student posters from the medical school.

A panel of faculty judges selected the top three poster presentations among BA/MD students and chose the top two presentations from School of Medicine graduate students.

Gondi presented the winning poster, Symptomatic Versus Asymptomatic Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension in Children. The second-place award for BA/MD students went to Nikhil Havaldar, fourth-year student,  with a poster presentation on Epidemiology of Human Rhinovirus in School-Aged Children and Adolescents with Medically Attended Acute Respiratory Infection. Yicheng Bao, fourth-year student,  was the third-place winner with a poster on Visual Field Loss in Patients with Diabetes in the Absence of Clinically-Detectable Vascular Retinopathy.

In the graduate student category, Kyler presented the winning poster, The Association of Weight with Drug Dosing Variation in Children Hospitalized with Asthma. Second place went to Poghni Peri-Okonny, a graduate student in cardiovascular outcomes research, with the poster presentation, Blood Pressure Variability and Cardiovascular Outcomes in Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction.

This year’s faculty judges included Sarah Nyp, MD; Jessica Markham, MD; Maria Cole, PhD; Jennifer Qayum, MD; Amanda Montalbano, MD; Sean Riordan, PhD; Janelle Noel-Macdonnell; PhD; Jennifer Dilts, MD; Nilofer Qureshi, PhD; Alain Cuna, MD; Peter Koulen, PhD; Bridgette Jones, MD; Jared Bruce, PhD; Dan Heruth, PhD; Rosa Huang, PhD; Kamani Lankachandra, MD; Xiangping Chu, PhD; Wail Hassan, PhD; Jannette Berkley-Patton, PhD; and Mike Wacker, PhD.

The research summit also  included students from the health sciences schools of dentistry, pharmacy, nursing and health sciences, as well UMKC’s School of Biological Sciences. This year’s summit drew a record 100 research posters.

 

Med students present record number of posters at 2019 Health Sciences Research Summit

Fifth-year medical student Kizhan Muhammad presented her poster at the 2019 UMKC Health Sciences Research Summit.

Kizhan Muhammad knows an opportunity when she sees one. The fifth-year medical student used a particularly rare case that appeared during her critical care rotation in the hospital’s intensive care unit to produce a research poster for the annual UMKC Health Sciences Student Research Summit.

Muhammad was one of 59 students from the School of Medicine who presented a record 66 posters at the research summit on April 17 at the UMKC Student Union. Both medical students and students from the school’s graduate programs — bioinformatics, anesthesiologist assistant, physician assistant and health professions education — participated in the summit.

Med School announces student research summit winners

“I always have my eyes and ears open for an opportunity to do research,” Muhammad said. “We happened to have a case with a rare syndrome. My mentor had me read about previous cases. My role was to do a literature review, extrapolate the data and then write a manuscript on our own patient.”

The patient, a 73-year-old man, had come to the hospital with a rapid heartbeat. When mild electrical shock, or cardioversion, was applied to bring the heartbeat to a normal rhythm, the man experienced Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Also known as broken-heart syndrome, the condition is a ballooning of the left ventricle that produces chest pain and shortness of breath. It’s typically a stress-related condition seen in older women.

“It’s a very benign disease that can be very scary,” Muhammad said. “It’s pretty rare, not something you’d typically see when you’re rounding.”

Muhammad produced a case report that compared her patient’s case with other recorded cases of the disease. The report was published in the Society of Critical Care Medicine journal and presented at the organization’s national convention.

She said her experience provided a good learning experience in the basics of conducting medical research as well as how to create and publish a manuscript and present the findings in a public forum such as the research summit.

“Research is a vital part of medicine,” Muhammad said. “It’s what gives us the potential to do better for our patients. I’m looking forward to doing more in our research program.”

The research summit also included students from the health sciences schools of dentistry, pharmacy, nursing and health sciences, as well UMKC’s School of Biological Sciences. This year’s summit drew a record 100 research posters.

A team of medical school faculty served as judges for the medical student posters and will select the top three poster presentations among medical students for awards and the top graduate student presentation.

 

Research Summit posters, abstracts due March 27

Organizers of the annual UMKC Health Sciences Student Research Summit are encouraging students to submit their abstracts and posters to participate in this year’s event.

The 2019 summit will take place from 3-5 p.m. on April 17 at the UMKC Student Union, Room 401. Deadline for submissions is March 27.

The research summit fosters research collaborations across disciplines and school that will produce economic, health, education and quality-of-life benefits for the greater Kansas City community. It is an opportunity for students to present their research to School of Medicine faculty.

Students must submit  their abstracts through the REDCap Submission Portal at https://is.gd/2019HSSRS. Posters must be submitted by email to the School of Medicine’s Office of Research Administration at hsdresearch@umkc.edu.

A School of Medicine poster template and complete poster guidelines are available online through the Office of Research Administration. Students may have their poster layouts reviewed by John Foxworth, Pharm. D. prior to submitting their poster to the research office. He can be contacted at FoxworthJ@umkc.edu.

Students can also sign up for a time to practice their presentations by sending an email to the research office at hsdresearch@umkc.edu.

The School of Medicine sponsors individual awards for medical students and its graduate students.

This is the seventh year that the schools are participating in the program at one venue on the Volker Campus. Last year, 50 students from the School of Medicine’s M.D. and Allied Health programs presented 45 posters at the research summit.

Health Sciences
Student Research Summit
Important links

Submissions Due: March 27
REDCap Submission Portal: https://is.gd/2019HSSRS

Research Poster Template: https://med.umkc.edu/docs/research/HSSRS_2019_poster_template.pptx
SOM Office of Student Research: hsdresearch@umkc.edu
Poster review with Dr. Foxworth: FoxworthJ@umkc.edu
Additional information: Courtney Dixon / 816-235-5366 /hsdresearch@umkc.edu

 

Revered UMKC professor, clinician honored by family

A recent contribution to the UMKC Foundation from the family of former School of Medicine faculty member Larry Pibenga, M.D., will support a research study on corneal calcification, led by Peter Koulen, Ph.D., endowed chair and co-director of vision research.

Colleagues who knew Larry Piebenga, MD, speak of him with true regard as both a mentor and role model for medical research, education and patient care.  A legendary ophthalmologist and teacher at UMKC, Piebenga was a pioneer for developing cornea and cataract therapies.

“Many of the ophthalmology techniques used today were first developed and implemented in clinics by Dr. Piebenga,” says Peter Koulen, PhD, UMKC professor and the Felix and Carmen Sabates Missouri Endowed Chair in Vision Research. “Our faculty members still try to emulate him.”

Dr. Pibenga

“Dr. Piebenga was my mentor during my residency at UMKC,” says Timothy Walline, MD, assistant professor in UMKC’s Department of Ophthalmology. “His calm, caring manner inspired me then, and not a week goes by that I don’t fondly recall something he taught me. His sincere approach to each and every patient has been my guidepost in 25 years of practice and academic endeavors.”

“He always did the right thing no matter what the work involved was and cared for every patient no matter who they were,” says Abraham Poulose MD, FACS, associate professor in UMKC’s Department of Ophthalmology. “I have aspired to live my life, both personally and professionally, to the example that he set.”

In memory of Piebenga, his family has made a contribution to the UMKC Foundation to support a research study on corneal calcification, led by Koulen. The basic science study hopes to find ways of more precisely assessing corneal calcification and determining how changes that occur from the condition affect the ability to accurately diagnose eye diseases.

“This is potentially a high-impact study that affects the outcome of many patients,” says Koulen. “By properly diagnosing their condition, we can work to develop new therapies for eye diseases that affect patients’ vision.”

Koulen said he is excited that Piebenga’s family is making this gift to honor his legacy and hopes it inspires others to honor their loved ones with similar tributes.

“Dr. Piebenga was a true advocate of research funding and he put that commitment into action,” says Koulen.  “As an avid philanthropist, he supported vision research at the UMKC Foundation, and the family’s gift showcases the mindset of Dr. Piebenga – that research is essential to our mission.”

He says their contribution also fills a critical gap for research funding as public funds are very competitive and are dwindling. “Donor gifts for small, initial studies such as this can lead to major funding for larger studies down the road,” he says.

“Research hinges on new discoveries, and philanthropy is a critical key in this process.”

Researcher Karl Kador receives Research to Prevent Blindness award

Karl Kador, Ph.D.

School of Medicine researcher Karl Kador, Ph.D.,  has received a $75,000 award from the Research to Prevent Blindness/Stavros Niarchos Foundation International Research Collaborators.

The grant is intended to support and promote international collaborations among researchers in the United States and abroad to gain new scientific knowledge and skills through activities within the department of ophthalmology. A researcher at the UMKC Vision Research Center, Kador has been working to develop a novel approach for treating patients suffering end-stage glaucoma.

Last year, Kador received a nearly $2-million National Institutes of Health grant to explore tissue engineering that could one day lead to a method of transplanting new retinal ganglion cells to replace old, dead cells.

The Research to Prevent Blindness award allows researchers to spend time working with one another to advance specific research goals. These international collaborations can have a positive impact on a world-wide population. They have the potential to speed the development of treatments for illnesses that lead to blindness.