IN THIS ISSUE
- Penn State Pharmacogenetics Researcher Hired by College of Pharmacy
- WSU Nursing Researcher Helps Area Health Groups with Transitions Care Model
- Researcher Finds Plant-Based Compounds that Help Slow Cancer's Spread
- WSU Partnership Helps Rural School District Win $1.2 Million Education Grant
- Health Policy Expert Highlights Unheralded Benefit of Affordable Care Act
- Scientist Researches Cure for Newborn Immune Deficiency
- Seed Grants Fund Research on Nursing, Sleep
- WSU Posts Enrollment Record Despite Dip in Freshman Numbers
- In the News
- Community Connections
- Personnel and Staffing Changes
- Way to Go!
By Lorraine Nelson, College of Pharmacy
The founder and director of the Center for Pharmacogenetics at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine has accepted a position as the new chair of the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department at the WSU College of Pharmacy.
The recruitment of Philip Lazarus was made possible by a grant from the Health Sciences and Services Authority (HSSA) of Spokane County. It has committed $500,000 over two years to a startup package for the successful researcher, who will move his vigorous federally funded research program across the country.
"Dr. Larazus's international reputation gives us an enormous advantage in recruiting additional faculty in pharmaceutical sciences," said Gary M. Pollack, dean of the College of Pharmacy and vice provost for WSU Health Sciences. "We have ambitious plans to add a significant number of faculty in the next few years."
Lazarus is a professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Public Health Sciences at Penn State. In addition to successfully developing a multimillion dollar pharmacogenetics center there, he served as associate director of population sciences.
He was program leader for the cancer control and prevention program for the Penn State Cancer Institute from 2003 to 2011 and held the same position at Florida's Moffitt Cancer Center from 2001 to 2003.
Lazarus has a bachelor's degree in human genetics and a PhD in experimental medicine, both from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where he also did three years of postdoctoral research in biochemistry.
He is one of two new biomedical researchers Pollack has recruited to the WSU College of Pharmacy with the help of HSSA, which awarded $1.8 million in grants last March for the startup packages and critically needed laboratory equipment. The second researcher, K. Michael Gibson, began work to create a clinical pharmacology unit this summer after moving his research program from Michigan Technological University.
Research Administrator Joins Health Sciences, College of Pharmacy
The spouse of new hire Philip Lazarus will be joining the faculty of the College of Pharmacy and WSU Health Sciences in Spokane.
Andrea Lazarus has been appointed assistant vice president for research clinical health sciences. The new position is responsible for helping WSU Health Sciences develop a competitive environment for pursuing health-related research, including clinical studies, said Gary M. Pollack, dean of the College of Pharmacy and vice provost for WSU Health Sciences.
"This will allow us to translate basic science discoveries into new treatment approaches," he said.
Lazarus has been administrator of the National Institutes of Health-funded Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute, which supports and cultivates turning laboratory-based findings into clinical practice.
She has a PhD in experimental medicine from McGill University, a master's degree in cell biology from Cornell University, and a bachelor's degree in human genetics from McGill.
She will hold the position of clinical professor in the WSU College of Pharmacy.
By Treva Lind, Spokane Journal of Business
A group called Bridging Care Across the Inland Northwest formed by health and elder care organizations has developed a new hospital transitional-care model to reduce readmission rates for elderly patients.
Before the end of this year, the group hopes to garner a federal contract to get Medicare reimbursements to help fund the model, based on a request being submitted in September after an earlier, less-detailed request failed.
At its core, the model seeks to improve care transitions for seniors after hospital stays and to prevent confusion over follow-up medical instructions through a "care-transitions coach" working with a patient at discharge for 30 days. It also encourages patients to keep a form with a personal health record that can be carried with them as they see various providers.
Older patients with chronic illnesses often end up back in the hospital within six months for a preventable reason, such as due to confusion about what medication to take, says Cindy Corbett, a Washington State University Spokane nursing professor who has helped develop the model.
"There's a lot of communication issues related to care transition," she says. "This model is about empowering patients and families to gain knowledge and be more aware of medications."
She adds, "Any time a patient is moved, you're transferring health history."
Corbett has studied strategies to improve chronic illness self-management and patient safety. Her research to improve the safe use of medications during care transitions has received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, among other agencies. She also serves as a scholar-in-residence for Providence hospitals in Spokane.
Corbett is part of the team working on the care-transitional model here. Some of the hospitals and organizations participating in the effort include Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children's Hospital, Providence Holy Family Hospital, Kootenai Medical Center, Area Agency on Aging of North Idaho, and Aging & Long Term Care of Eastern Washington.
In early September, Aging & Long Term Care of Eastern Washington, as the lead agency, plans to submit a contract request that uses the model to The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The Spokane-based Aging & Long Term Care organization offers a network of services for in-home and long-term care and is a member of the state Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging, based in Olympia, Wash.
If the contract with the transitional-care model is approved, Medicare would offer an estimated reimbursement of $80 to $100 per elderly patient if that person doesn't return to the hospital within six months, Corbett says. The patients would need to elect to participate.
The group had applied for such a contract earlier this year, but CMS turned down that request because details still were needed for a regional model to be eligible, says Nick Beamer, executive director of Aging & Long Term Care of Eastern Washington.
"We had to do a root-cause analysis," Beamer says, which meant the group had to submit a report on the region's population and major causes of illnesses resulting in hospital readmissions. Some of those health issues now detailed include diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and congestive heart failure, Beamer says.
The agency is submitting the request under a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and it also began piloting the transitions care model in recent weeks, Beamer adds...
By Eric Sorensen, WSU science writer
More than 40 plant-based compounds can turn on genes that slow the spread of cancer, according to a first-of-its-kind study by a Washington State University researcher.
Gary Meadows, professor and associate dean for graduate education and scholarship in the College of Pharmacy, says he is encouraged by his findings because the spread of cancer is most often what makes the disease fatal. Moreover, says Meadows, diet, nutrients and plant-based chemicals appear to be opening many avenues of attack.
"We're always looking for a magic bullet," he says. "Well, there are lots of magic bullets out there in what we eat and associated with our lifestyle. We just need to take advantage of those. And they can work together."
Meadows started the study, recently published online in the journal Cancer and Metastasis Reviews, with some simple logic: Most research focuses on the prevention of cancer or the treatment of the original cancer tumor, but it's usually the cancer's spread to nearby organs that kills you. So rather than attack the tumor, said Meadows, let's control its spread, or metastasis.
He focused in particular on genes that suppress metastasis. As search engine terms go, it took him down many a wormhole in the PubMed research database, as the concept of nutrients and metastasis suppressor genes is rarely identified by journals. It's even an afterthought of some of the researchers who find the genes.
"People for the most part did not set out in their research goals to study metastasis suppressor genes," says Meadows. "It was just a gene that was among many other genes that they had looked at in their study."
But Meadows took the studies and looked to see when metastasis suppressor genes were on or off, even if original authors didn't make the connection. In the end, he documented dozens of substances affecting the metastasis suppressor genes of numerous cancers.
He saw substances like amino acids, vitamin D, ethanol, ginseng extract, the tomato carotenoid lycopene, the turmeric component curcumin, pomegranate juice, fish oil and others affecting gene expression in breast, colorectal, prostate, skin, lung and other cancers.
Typically, the substances acted epigenetically, which is to say they turned metastasis suppressor genes on or off.
"So these epigenetic mechanisms are influenced by what you eat," he says. "That may also be related to how the metastasis suppressor genes are being regulated. That's a very new area of research that has largely not been very well explored in terms of diet and nutrition."
A shift in cancer research
Meadows says his study reinforces two concepts.
For one, he has a greater appreciation of the role of natural compounds in helping our bodies slow or stop the spread of cancer. The number of studies connecting nutrients and metastasis suppressor genes by accident suggests a need for more deliberate research into the genes.
"And many of these effects have not been followed up on," he says. "There's likely to be more compounds out there, more constituents, that people haven't even evaluated yet."
Meadows also sees these studies playing an important role in the shift from preventing cancer to living with it and keeping it from spreading.
"We've kind of focused on the cancer for a long time," he says. "More recently we've started to focus on the cancer in its environment. And the environment, your whole body as an environment, is really important in whether or not that cancer will spread."
WSU Partnership Helps Rural School District Win $1.2 Million Education Grant
By Doug Nadvornick
The US Department of Education is making a big investment in a rural northeastern Washington school district with a high American Indian population.
The agency has awarded $1.2 million to the Grand Coulee Dam School District. The money will allow the district on the Colville Indian Reservation to significantly improve its educational infrastructure—especially in science—during the next four years. Grand Coulee Dam is one of only 10 districts in the nation to receive one of these grants.
WSU scientist plays a big role
A Lake Roosevelt High School student
The grant would not have happened without a partnership between WSU Spokane research scientist Sylvia Oliver and Lake Roosevelt high school science teacher Ralph Rise. Oliver is impressed by how well Rise engages his students with hands-on science projects. The students consistently win awards at WSU's Imagine Tomorrow problem-solving competition.
This year they were recognized for their "Scrap Power" project. They developed an efficient way for a pastor in the African nation of Malawi to recharge the battery that powers a portable keyboard he takes with him when he visits the parishes in his large rural district. The process allows him to connect the battery to an old stationary bicycle and recharge it by pedaling.
"Ralph has demonstrated that if you mentor kids and work with them in a meaningful way on projects that they're interested in that they can be successful," said Oliver.
Oliver's admiration for Rise's teaching led her to help the district find new resources. She helped to write the application for the federal grant.
With the help of WSU Spokane, Grand Coulee Dam School District will implement all four years of a hands-on biomedical curriculum created by Project Lead The Way. WSU Spokane is a PLTW affiliate, and Oliver is the director. The grant will buy the laboratory equipment the district will need for that. District science teachers will be trained at the university's Spokane campus to teach the courses.
Raising academic expectations
Though Rise's students have had consistent success in the WSU problem-solving competition, Grand Coulee Dam standardized tests scores lag behind the state average, even with steady improvements during the last several years.
One of the goals cited in the project is to raise expectations in a place where academic excellence is not widespread.
The grant says the district will work to increase student motivation and engagement through hands-on math and science classes, field trips, research projects, and summer camps. The district will offer advanced placement classes for the first time. It also calls for more career counseling for students and more parent and community involvement.
A committee of community members, including leaders from the Colville Tribe, will monitor the project, and the WSU College of Education will review it.
"The evaluation plan is designed to provide information for decision makers to improve the project and ensure high impact," says College of Education associate dean Mike Trevisan.
In the district, Rise, his fellow teachers, and administrators are excited about the possibilities the new money will bring.
In an e-mail announcing the grant, superintendent Dennis Carlson said, "I can hardly believe what we are accomplishing here in our little district."
Associate professor of health policy and administration Jae Kennedy is using one of medicine's most prominent stages to talk about what he views as a little-known benefit of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Kennedy—a professor of health policy and administration—and co-author Elizabeth Blodgett write in this week's New England Journal of Medicine that the health care reform law will reduce the pressures of growth in public disability assistance programs.
|Kennedy and Blodgett|
The article contends that people apply for two large federal disability programs—Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—in part because of the guarantee of medical coverage. Because of that, Kennedy and Blodgett say enrollment in the programs has increased substantially during the last two decades, driving up their costs to unsustainable levels.
The authors argue that, though the federal government has tried to nudge people off the federal programs into private sector jobs, many are loath to make the leap when there are no guarantees that they'll be able to secure private health insurance.
Affordable Care Act to increase job flexibility for disabled workers
The ACA will help by offering new insurance options for disabled workers.
"It achieves this by several policy changes that benefit different subgroups among people with disabilities," the authors write.
For example, the law allows people younger than 26 to stay on their parents' health insurance. Insurance companies are no longer allowed to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. The law eliminates lifetime medical benefit caps. These and other provisions, such as premium and cost-sharing credits, they argue, will improve coverage and affordability for disabled workers.
"Consequently, fewer will need to rely on public insurance obtained through disability benefits," write Kennedy and Blodgett. In addition, "As the private insurance market becomes more accessible and affordable for people with disabilities, they will be able to afford to work for smaller firms that do not currently offer insurance."
Despite the new options, Kennedy doubts enrollees will make a mad rush away from the government programs to private insurance. But he says some will return to work and other disabled workers will stay on the job, and that will ease the upward pressure on enrollment in disability benefits programs. That in itself, he says, is an important function of the law.
Blodgett is a graduate of WSU's health policy and administration program. She is pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina.
By Lorraine Nelson, College of Pharmacy
An inherited immune deficiency fatal in newborns is the target of a new research effort by a team that includes a Washington State University scientist.
Funded for five years by the National Institutes of Health, the gene therapy team includes Grant Trobridge from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the WSU College of Pharmacy. Funding from the NIH for the PO1 project is $12 million, with $1.8 million for the WSU component led by Trobridge.
A Program Project Grant (P01) is an award that supports a broadly based multidisciplinary research program with a central research objective. Interrelationships between component projects are expected to result in a greater contribution to the program goals than if each project were pursued separately.
Trobridge’s research team will work to improve a virus used to transfer normal genetic material into chromosomes to replace a defective gene. The project also includes researchers from Seattle Children's Research Institute, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the University of Washington and the University of Pennsylvania.
Gene therapy for the "X-linked Severe Combined Immune Deficiency" condition fatal to infants has worked in clinical trials, but damage to nearby genes from the transfer agent has resulted in leukemia in some patients, Trobridge said.
The transfer agent his lab uses is from a type of virus known as a "foamy virus" and appears to be safer, he said. With the new grant, the team will continue to modify it to make it even safer. One modification will include the addition of chromosomal elements to block the ability of the virus to interfere with normal genes.
"We hope these elements will act as insulation for the normal genes against the virus," Trobridge said.
The project goal is to ready the virus for future clinical trials.
Trobridge's other role on the team is to provide computer analysis—or bioinformatics—using software developed by his lab. Trobridge will set up a Web-based data analysis site so collaborating researchers can do some of their own analysis, and his lab also will perform some custom analysis.
By Judith Van Dongen
Five faculty members in the health sciences recently received WSU Spokane seed grants, which support research projects that show promise of resulting in publications, professional presentations, and extramural grant funding.
Three of the winners are from the College of Nursing. Assistant professors of nursing Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, Karen Caines, and Susan Fleming each won a grant. Sleep researchers Chris Davis and Eva Szentirmai from the WWAMI medical education program also won seed grants.
Barbosa-Leiker is the recipient of a newly offered supplemental seed grant funded by the College of Nursing, the Murrow College of Communication, and the WSU Spokane Office of Research. The grant encourages researchers to focus on topics that bridge health and communications and requires collaboration between faculty members from any of the health sciences disciplines at WSU Spokane and the Murrow College.
Barbosa-Leiker will use the seed grant funds for a study that will test whether smoking abstinence among young, postpartum women in rural communities can be significantly increased through a combination of contingency management, a reward-based substance abuse treatment, and entertainment education, a media strategy that uses entertainment to encourage the modeling of healthy behaviors. She will conduct the study in collaboration with faculty from the Murrow College, the College of Nursing, and the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Caines—whose grant is also cofunded by the Murrow College of Communication—will test an intervention to increase vaccine science knowledge and improve immunization-related communication skills in bachelor-prepared nurses. The study will help address vaccine safety concerns and update best practices for immunization. She expects that it will ultimately lead to an increase in the number of nurses who can help inform parents’ immunization decisions.
Fleming will conduct a qualitative, interpretive study on the use of electronic media—such as Internet and reality TV shows—as a way for pregnant women to prepare for hospital birthing. She says the study findings will facilitate the understanding of birthing preparation and experiences of first-time mothers and may be used to design and test interventions to improve perinatal outcomes and reduce health care costs.
Davis's seed grant will enable him to develop an attention task for the rodent version of the human psychomotor vigilance task (PVT), the most widely accepted test for demonstrating the effects of sleep loss in humans. The task will be used to examine the consequences of sleep deprivation on attention and performance in rodents and allows for performance impairments to be examined at the molecular level.
Szentirmai will develop and test a model that describes the role of activated brown adipose tissue—a type of fat that is especially abundant in newborns and hibernating animals—in the regulation of sleep and metabolism. She will deactivate sensory neurons associated with brown adipose tissue to test the hypothesis that heat produced by this tissue provides sleep-promoting signals to the brain. Szentirmai hopes the project will enable her to identify a distinct organ and a specific mechanism that link metabolism and sleep and that could be further explored through translational medicine.
Seed grants are awarded annually by the WSU Spokane Office of Research. The next seed grant competition will be announced in spring 2013.
By Darin Watkins, WSU News
With a freshman enrollment this fall that fell just short of last year's all-time record, Washington State University this year again experienced a record fall semester enrollment, with a total of 27,357 students enrolling across the university’s four campuses.
The new figure represents only a 1.3 percent increase from last fall's previous system-wide record enrollment total of 27,008, however. For the third year in a row, fall enrollment at the Pullman campus also surpassed the 20,000 mark, with a total enrollment of 21,692 students, up from 21,016 in 2011. Pullman enrollment figures also include distance students served by the Pullman campus.
The slight overall enrollment increase was partially offset by a dip in the size of this fall's entering freshman class, which—at 4,389 system-wide—is down 1.9 percent from last year’s record freshman enrollment of 4,473.
"We saw an increase of nearly 36 percent in our freshman enrollment in 2011 as the result of our commitment to try to provide access to as many qualified students as possible," said WSU president Elson S. Floyd. "Now this fall, we find ourselves welcoming a freshman class nearly its equal in size, quality and diversity—demonstrating that even in these difficult financial times, there is a heightened level of demand for a WSU education."
For the second straight year, WSU Pullman, which for reporting purposes includes the WSU Spokane campus, saw a significant increase in minority freshmen enrollments. Students of color comprised 30.9 percent of enrolling freshmen this year, compared to 27.7 percent of freshmen in 2011. System-wide, the minority freshman enrollment this fall was 31.1 percent, compared to 27.5 percent in 2011.
As a percentage of total enrollment, WSU's minority student population has grown from 20 percent of the total student enrollment last fall to 22 percent this semester. International student enrollments account for 6.6 percent of this semester's total enrollment.
- PhD in criminal justice student Kay Heinrich was quoted in a Spokesman-Review article on the Evidence-Based Offender Change Program, a pilot program to correct inmates' behavior at a cognitive level. Heinrich is the correctional program manager at Airway Heights Corrections Center, one of two facilities in the state that participate in the program. Read the article.
- Research professor Gregory Belenky recently became a "grandfather" of sleep medicine after passing the first European Sleep Research Society (ESRS) examination in sleep medicine held at the organization's 21st congress in Paris. The achievement has earned him the ESRS qualification title of somnologist.
Trevor Greene, a graduate of the WSU College of Education's superintendent certification program and principal of Toppenish High School, has been named as the 2013 National High School Principal of the Year by MetLife and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. He is the first high school principal in the Northwest to receive the award. Greene was noted for turning the high school on the Yakama reservation into a high-performing institution offering 27 high-profile engineering and biomedical classes, which helped improve state science scores at the school by 67 percent over three years.
- Sept. 24-25, Northwest Medical Informatics Symposium
Strategies for confronting the challenges of health information technology will be presented at the Northwest Medical Informatics Symposium (NMIS) to be held Sept. 24-25, 2012, in Spokane. The symposium is being presented by Inland Northwest Health Services in partnership with eHealth Initiative and HIMMS Washington Chapter. For more information and to register, go to the NMIS Web siteor call 509-232-8142.
- Oct. 6, KPBX Kids' Concert: A Celtic Harvest with Floating Crowbar
Don't miss this lively musical celebration of the fall season, from 1 to 2 p.m. at River Park Square. Floating Crowbar are multi-instrumentalists don Thomsen and James Hunter, with fiddle player and bow maker Morgan Andersen and guitarist/percussionist Rick Rubin. Their lively concert will include Uillean pipes, flutes, whistles, banjo, mandolin, and cittern. Kids of all ages are encouraged to jig, whistle and clap along. Free admission.
- Amy Johnson, Graduate Assistant, Education Leadership, effective August 16, 2012
- Dr. Jeannie Padowski, Clinical Assistant Professor, WWAMI, effective September 1. 2012
- Brieann Satterfield, Research Intern, Sleep and Performance Research Center (SPRC)/Human Sleep and Cognition Laboratory (HSCL), effective September 1, 2012
- Dr. Pingping Jia, Postdoctoral Research Associate, WWAMI, effective September 11, 2012
- Liza Bathurst, Program Coordinator (Student Data Coordinator), College of Nursing, effective September 17, 2012
- Dr. Maria Fadri-Moskwik, Postdoctoral Research Associate, WWAMI, effective September 17, 2012
- Daniel Nolan, Library & Archives Paraprofessional 4, Riverpoint Campus Library, effective September 18, 2012
- Alex Bitsui, Office Assistant 3, Human Resources, effective September 20, 2012
- Judy Sprauer, Library & Archives Paraprofessional 2, College of Nursing-Yakima, effective August 21, 2012
- Devon Kelley, Office Assistant 3, College of Nursing, effective September 4, 2012
- Jacqueline Englert, Extension Coordinator Senior, transferred to Pharmacy as a Fiscal Specialist 1, effective June 18, 2012
- Pam Medley, from Principle Assistant in IDI to Enrollment Management Coordinator (50%) in Student Affairs, effective September 11, 2012
- Jenna McCoy, from Academic Coordinator to Manager Upward Bound (interim), effective August 16, 2012
Recruitments & Searches:
- Assistant/Associate Professor, College of Pharmacy, open until filled, apply at www.wsujobs.com
- Assistant/Associate Professor, Speech & Hearing Sciences, open until filled, apply at www.wsujobs.com
- Coordinator, Shock Physics, open until filled, apply at www.wsujobs.com
- Instruction & Classroom Support Technician 2, College of Pharmacy, open until filled, apply at www.wsujobs.com
- Office Assistant 3, College of Nursing, position closed, interviews pending
- Research Project Engineer, Shock Physics, open until filled, apply at www.wsujobs.com
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