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WOMEN OF SCIENCE These eight faculty scientists represent some of the most exciting, cutting-edge research in their fields and in the College of Health Sciences at Marquette.

The Life of Don Neumann

Protégé Power

The Brain Explained

Before he wrote the book — literally — on kinesiology, he first had to fight for his life.

Undergraduate research prowess gives Dr. Murray Blackmore’s lab a boost.

The college may well be the only place in the world where those who qualify can come to dissect the human brain.


Marquette University College of Health Sciences 1515 W. Wisconsin Ave. P.O. Box 1881 Milwaukee, Wis. 53201-1881 414.288.6000 Dean of the College of Health Sciences William E. Cullinan, Ph.D. Associate Dean Kim L. Halula, R.D.H., Ph.D. Assistant Dean Michelle Schuh, M.S. Director of Academic Business Affairs Michelle Raclawski Chair of Biomedical Sciences John R. Mantsch, Ph.D. Associate Chair of Biomedical Sciences David A. Baker, Ph.D. Chair of Clinical Laboratory Science April Harkins, Ph.D. Chair of Physical Therapy Lawrence G. Pan, P.T., Ph.D., F.A.P.T.A. Director of Exercise Science Program Paula E. Papanek, Ph.D., M.P.T., ACT/L, F.A.C.S.M. Chair of Physician Assistant Studies Mary Jo Wiemiller, P.A.-C., M.S. Chair of Speech Pathology and Audiology Linda K. Crowe, Ph.D., C.C.C.-S.L.P. Marquette Health Sciences is published for alumni, colleagues and friends of the college. Feedback and story ideas are appreciated. Editor: Jesse Lee Advising editor: Stephen Filmanowicz Copy editor: Sarah Koziol Art director: Sharon Grace /MUHealthSciences


I am very pleased to welcome you to the fall 2014 issue of Health Sciences Magazine. The past year has seen very significant progress and major accomplishments, perhaps none more impressive than those of our faculty. Dr. Sandra Hunter, professor of exercise science, received two prestigious university awards — the Way Klingler Fellowship in Science and the John P. Raynor, S.J., Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence — while also receiving an additional NIH research grant. Dr. John Mantsch, professor and chair of biomedical sciences, was awarded a $2.6 million NIH grant for his studies examining neural mechanisms underlying the addiction process. Dr. Paul Gasser, associate professor of biomedical sciences, in collaboration with three departmental faculty colleagues, received a $1.85 million NIH grant award for his studies concerning a novel brain mechanism of monoamine clearance, a project that may have enormous implications for the treatment of neuropsychiatric illnesses such as depression and PTSD. In addition to receiving two NIH grant awards, Dr. Allison Hyngstrom, assistant professor of physical therapy, was awarded the Way Klingler Young Scholar Award. Dr. Behnam Ghasemzadeh, associate professor of biomedical sciences, was awarded a $450,000 NIH research grant for his studies aimed at the development of new treatments for schizophrenia. Dr. Marie Hoeger-Bement, associate professor of physical therapy, received two grant awards totaling $460,000 to fund her studies on the link between stress and pain perception. We have also seen grant awards made to two of our newest faculty members: Dr. Marieke Gilmartin, assistant professor of biomedical sciences, received a $225,000 grant for her research on brain mechanisms underlying memory formation and fear, a project with important implications for understanding several forms of mental illness, and Dr. Abiola Keller, clinical assistant professor of physician assistant studies, was awarded a $100,000 grant to study depression care in advanced practice providers and physicians. These accomplishments represent only new awards made to our faculty during the past year. Numerous funded multiyear projects are ongoing across the college — perhaps most notably the work of Dr. Paula Papanek, associate professor and director of the program in exercise science, and Dr. Larry Pan, professor and chair of physical therapy, who have collaborated on three separate projects totaling some $4.5 million for programs benefiting disadvantaged youth populations in the Milwaukee community. Of course, we are equally proud of the many accomplishments of our students, as well as the outstanding quality of our programs, which stand among the highest ranked and nationally recognized across the university. Demand for our professional programs in physical therapy, physician assistant studies, and speech and language pathology continues to climb, similar to our undergraduate programs in athletic training, biomedical sciences, clinical laboratory science, exercise physiology, and speech pathology and audiology. We are also seeing increases in the quality of our applicant pools and our overall program selectivity. Though we are poised to grow to help meet a critical demand in the labor market, we take particular pride in the kind of practitioners our graduates will ultimately become: caring, competent, compassionate, ethical professionals in whom people place great trust. And that is as it should be for graduates of this great university and of this very special college that inhabits its place within it. I do hope you enjoy reading about some of the faculty and student accomplishments in these pages, though they are but a sample of the many remarkable happenings within the college. We’re truly excited about the opportunity to develop additional new and innovative programs of distinction, as well as increase high-impact experiences for our students as they work toward the day when they will take their places in an increasingly complex health care environment in great need of their talents and abilities. It’s all part of advancing, and living, what we have termed “The Science that Heals.” With warm regards,

William E. Cullinan, Ph.D. Professor and Dean, College of Health Sciences Director, Integrative Neuroscience Research Center

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HEALTH SCIENCES m ag az i n e


This photo and cover photo by Kat Schleicher


2 Snapshot

4 News


WOMEN OF SCIENCE: Their contributions are influential and their numbers are growing.

6 Student Profile — Protégé Power  Undergraduate research prowess gives Dr. Murray Blackmore’s lab a boost.

10 Research and Grants • D  r. John Mantsch — $2.6 million NIH grant • D  r. Sandra Hunter — Two prestigious awards • D  r. Allison Hyngstrom — Way Klingler Young

Scholar Award • Dr. Marieke Gilmartin — $225,000 grant • Dr. Abiola Keller — $100,000 grant • Dr. Paul Gasser, Biomedical Science researchers — $1.85 million NIH grant

14 Student Showcase — Summer Research    The Summer Research Program transforms students.

22 Alumni Voices — A Sixth Sense While a student at Marquette, Dr. Shital Vora

helped create the world’s largest student-led humanitarian organization.

24 The Life and Near-Death of Don Neumann  Before he wrote the book — literally — on kinesiology, he first had to fight for his life.

28 The Brain Explained  The college may well be the only place in

the world where medical professionals and educators can come to dissect the human brain.

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Photo by Dan McMahn


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While our cover story highlights the work of our female faculty, we felt it also worth noting that the college produces some of the future’s best and brightest women of science.

190 The average number of women enrolled in the College of Health Sciences each fall since 2012. Currently female students outnumber male students by nearly 2 to 1.

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NEWS Retirements

Three faculty members with more than 110 years of combined service to the university retire from the College of Health Sciences.

Dr. William Bell, associate professor of biomedical sciences, retired in May 2014 after 40 years of service. Dr. Bell celebrated his retirement at a reception in the college, and he was asked by the students to give a speech at the biomedical sciences Commencement ceremony. Dr. Edward Korabic, chair and professor of speech pathology and audiology, celebrated his retirement at a reception in May 2014. Dr. Korabic retired after 35 years of service to Marquette. Dr. Linda Laatsch, Grad ’00, chair and professor of clinical laboratory sciences, also retired at the end of the spring semester following Commencement, after 38 years of service. Dr. Laatsch celebrated her retirement with family, friends, students and colleagues at a reception in June 2014.


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Marquette University doctoral candidate receives AAUW American Fellowship The American Association of University Women awarded a 2014-15 American Fellowship to Stacy Stolzman, M.P.T., Ph.Dc. She is a doctoral candidate in the Clinical and Translational Rehabilitation Health Science Doctoral Program. American Fellowships, AAUW’s oldest and largest funding program, date back to 1888 and support women scholars who are completing doctoral dissertations, conducting postdoctoral research or finishing research for publication. “This award is an amazing honor,” says Stolzman. “I am looking forward to completing my dissertation during my fellowship year. This award will allow me to focus on my research by providing funding for child care expenses, living expenses, and conference travel to present my research findings.” Stolzman is a pediatric physical therapist with more than 15 years of experience evaluating children and making exercise prescriptions to improve health. Her current dissertation project investigates the roles of body composition, physical fitness and inflammation in adolescent pain. Her goal is to teach pediatric physical therapy at a research university.

Alumni establish scholarship to encourage professional program enrollment Dan and Susan Real, both 1981 alumni of Marquette, donated $250,000 to establish a scholarship for “qualified students of diversity who would shine at Marquette but cannot afford the cost of tuition.” The scholarship will aid students in professional programs in the college — like the doctoral physical therapy and master’s programs in physician assistant studies and in speech-

language pathology — who would not typically have access to such aid. “We feel this opportunity will help these students to act as role models in their communities once they graduate,” say the Reals. “These communities need top-quality health care providers and Marquette offers ‘the best bar-none’ education in these fields. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, ‘Far and away the best prize life offers is the chance to work

hard at work worth doing,’ and the health sciences fields practiced in disadvantaged communities is truly God’s work worth doing!” “We’re extremely grateful to Dan and Susan for this gift,” says Dr. William Cullinan, dean of the College of Health Sciences. “This scholarship will have an impact on many students who might otherwise have been unable to pursue their professional degrees.”

Clinical Laboratory Science, Speech Pathology and Audiology name new department chairs Dr. April Harkins, H Sci ’98, the new chair of clinical laboratory science, graduated from the program in 1998. She went on to receive her doctorate in microbiology and immunology from the Medical University of South Carolina. She returned to Marquette as an assistant professor in 2005.

Dr. Linda Crowe, chair of speech pathology and audiology, received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southeast Missouri State University and University of Nebraska–Lincoln, respectively. She completed her doctorate in communication disorders in 1996 at Louisiana State and Texas A&M universities, and worked as a professor at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Saint Louis and Kansas State universities, and University of Nebraska–Kearny.

Raclawski receives Excellence in University Service award Michelle Raclawski, director of academic business affairs, received an Excellence in University Service award at a university-wide luncheon in June 2014. The awards recognize staff members who contribute to the essential work of Marquette at the highest level of excellence. Recipients are nominated based on service that is above and beyond their normally assigned duties. Raclawski is well-known in the College of Health Sciences as a problemsolver, communicator, caregiver and hard worker. “I got my work ethic from my parents,” she says. “I feel like people who work with me know my mission is to help them do their jobs.”

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Protégé power Undergraduate research prowess gives Dr. Murray Blackmore’s lab a boost Restless, Matt Simpson walked briskly across campus on a bitterly cold February night to Schroeder Health Sciences Complex where, in a fourth-floor lab, a computer was compiling data on genetic material that might hold clues to reversing paralysis. When the computer spit out the results, the junior biomedical sciences major had his first “Eureka!” moment — and he’s been transfixed ever since. “The results proved certain genes work in the way we predicted them to,” Simpson recalls. “At that moment I realized I had discovered information that nobody else in the world knew. I simply sat there and smiled.” Simpson is one of four undergraduate students in Dr. Murray Blackmore’s lab. Along with two postdoctoral fellows, the team is working to help regenerate damaged axons — those microscopic, tentacle-like structures that connect neurons and carry the brain’s messages throughout the body. When marred through trauma, axons fail to communicate properly, resulting in paralysis. Amphibian species such as the salamander are able to regenerate and regrow axons, even in adulthood. This growth machinery is also active in the human embryo, but is turned off once the axons reach their growth target. “There’s an evolutionary reason for shutting down additional growth to prevent aberrant connections,” Blackmore says. “That’s nature.”


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Photo by Jesse Lee

He believes gene therapy can be used to reactivate the axonal growth machinery in adult human cells. Ultimately, the assistant professor of biomedical sciences is hopeful that the strides made in his lab will lead to therapies capable of reversing immobilization following spinal cord damage. Due in no small part to a personal connection to spinal cord injury — his mother was left paralyzed from the shoulders down following an auto accident when he was only 12 years old — he’s a passionate, focused researcher. But he’s no lone wolf. Blackmore credits his entire laboratory team, including Simpson and fellow undergraduate Kristen Winsor, with making much of what happens in his lab possible.

as the expert on the screening microscope, which looks more like a laser printer than a highly complex piece of imaging equipment. Nevertheless, it requires careful calibration — a skill Simpson has sharpened. “Our work is incredibly labor intensive, but we can use technology to do it more quickly,” Blackmore says. “Matt’s expertise has been a game-changer for the lab. When I’m in trouble, I call him.” Winsor’s approach to the axonal growth issue is different. Her goal is to get axons to grow in the face of cellular signals telling them not to.

“I came into this lab with little patience for when things don’t work the way I planned, and being able to work under him has taught me ... patience.”

Situated at the end of a corridor dotted with research posters, the lab itself is modest and unassuming. But the science inside the long, two-room facility is highly sophisticated.

“I try to understand what is different between an embryonic neuron and an adult neuron that explains the difference in their ability to grow,” Blackmore explains. “And then — this is where it gets really cool — ultimately you want to restore that ability in the older neuron. You want to change gene expression in the older neuron to mimic that earlier state in development.” Blackmore’s target: the approximately 1,000 genes in the young neuron that differ from the older neuron. His lab methodically measures gene expression levels in a petri dish. With a high-throughput screening microscope, he can determine whether a specific gene helps axons grow and by how much. Enter Simpson. Blackmore calls the pre-med student “extremely intelligent,” crediting him


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“She’s a bulldog,” Blackmore says of Winsor, whom he counts as a lab leader. “She’s as persistent as they come and deeply dedicated to the work.”

Winsor is equally effusive in praise for her professor. “I definitely got lucky in having Dr. Blackmore as a mentor,” she says. “I came into this lab with little patience for when things don’t work as planned, and being able to work under him has taught me that science requires patience, particularly when taking on a complex problem.” Simpson agrees: “The most difficult part of research is staying patient. Whether it is waiting for a procedure to be completed, waiting for data to come in or waiting for a meaningful synthesis of results, research always entails an anticipation that is hard to control. This anticipation can result in dejection at poor results, but it is all worth it for the instances of success.” And those are the lessons Blackmore hopes his students take away. “Research can be brutally difficult, as well as brutally disappointing,” he adds. “While it’s not for everyone, it is for Kristen and Matt.”

Dr. Murray Blackmore’s research on axonal growth machinery may prove pivotal in finding ways to regenerate damaged spinal cords.

Seed funding fosters growth Both Winsor and Simpson understand and appreciate the gravity of what they’re striving toward.

That research, however, is a high-risk, highgain proposition, which makes top-level federal funding difficult to attain, Blackmore emphasizes. Though now armed with a prestigious $1.6 million R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health, Blackmore is quick to point out that smaller, private foundation support from the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation, Unite 2 Fight Paralysis, and an organization bluntly called Spinal Cord Injury Sucks (SCIS) has been a critical catalyst in his lab’s development.

Photo by Dan Johnson

“Paralysis is a highly visible, tangible problem that clearly needs a solution,” Simpson says. “The very real possibility of regenerating the spinal cord and giving individuals the ability to walk again is the driving force behind why I got involved.”

“Kristen’s work is funded by the Bryon Riesch Foundation, and SCIS donated the money for the high-tech microscope that enables Matt to do what he does,” Blackmore says. “Without this seed money and this pool of undergraduate talent, we could not have established our current pace.” These two talented undergraduates will travel to Washington, D.C., in November to present their research at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, an opportunity typically reserved for more experienced researchers. “I truly believe that undergraduate research is more than just a résumé builder,” Blackmore says. “Instead students can play an integral role in the making of valuable discoveries. “Like all of our undergraduates, grad students and postdocs, Kristen and Matt are an integral part of the lifeblood of our lab.”

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By Jesse Lee

Photo by John Nienhuis


DR. JOHN MANTSCH RECEIVES $2.6 MILLION GRANT FOR NEUROSCIENCE STUDY Dr. John Mantsch, professor and chair of biomedical sciences, received a five-year $2.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the effects of stress in drug-addiction relapse. Marquette is the lead institution on the grant and Mantsch will collaborate with the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“Despite decades of research, there is still no FDA-approved medication for the treatment of cocaine addiction.”

“Despite decades of research, there is still no FDA-approved medication for the treatment of cocaine addiction,” says Mantsch. “This is due in part to fundamental gaps in understanding neurobiological processes that promote drug relapse, which we aim to address.”

“This grant award is further evidence of our emerging institutional and regional strength in neuroscience research,” says Dr. William Cullinan, dean of the College of Health Sciences and director of the Integrative Neuroscience Research Center. “Given the current competitive landscape for funding

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at NIH, the award is a testament both to the importance of research coming out of our labs and to the value of collaborative relationships among these investigators.” According to Mantsch, the research has three specific aims. The first is to study endocannabinoid receptors — molecules that transmit the effects of the brain’s intrinsic marijuana-like system and become highly activated following stress. The second is to examine the effects of stress on cocaine-seeking behavior and regulation mechanisms of that behavior. Finally, the investigators aim to determine how stress-induced alterations in these neural circuits lead to relapse into cocaine use. They will focus within a brain region known as the prefrontal cortex, which is critical to higher-order cognitive and executive functions, including decision-making. Mantsch and his colleagues believe the studies have implications beyond understanding drug-seeking behavior and addiction. “By defining mechanisms by which stress alters regulation of the brain’s motivation and reward system, we will be in a position to better understand the wide range of neuropsychiatric conditions in which this same system is altered,” Mantsch says. 9

adult-onset disease, type 2 diabetes has become an issue for children, as incidences of childhood obesity are rising. Hunter’s research will examine blood flow and fatigue in the central nervous systems of non-insulin dependent patients with diabetes. Working with a clinical population will allow her to test her hypothesis: Blunted blood flow response and greater fatigue in the central nervous system will account for greater muscle fatigue in people with type 2 diabetes. Ultimately, she hopes to determine how a strength-training program can alleviate the neuromuscular fatigue that type 2 diabetes patients suffer. “Exercise can offset some of the effects of this disease,” Hunter says. “It’s the cornerstone of treatment, but people have to want to do it. This study will help understand the mechanisms involved.” 9 Photo by Dan Johnson


DR. SANDRA HUNTER RECEIVES TWO PRESTIGIOUS MARQUETTE AWARDS Dr. Sandra Hunter, professor of exercise science, recently received the John P. Raynor, S.J., Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence — the university’s highest teaching honor — and the 2014-15 Way Klingler Fellowship in science. The fellowship provides $50,000 annually for three years, which will allow Hunter to focus on type 2 diabetes, a disease that continues to gain attention as global obesity rates rise. “It’s a pandemic. The increase in instances of this disease is absurd,” she says. “That said, there is still not much understanding of the neuromuscular implications that come with it, the fatigue and impairments.” Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, affects the body’s ability to properly regulate insulin. Typically thought of as an

Dr. Allison Hyngstrom, assistant professor of physical therapy, received Marquette’s 2014 Way Klingler Young Scholar Award. The award provides funding toward research and a one-semester sabbatical. Hyngstrom plans to use her sabbatical to apply for a National Institutes of Health grant to fund research on the neural mechanisms associated with strength deficits and how stroke-related changes in muscle fatigue affect walking function. She hopes her research will help develop new rehabilitation strategies to optimize leg strengthening and walking in the chronic stroke population. Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States, impairing quality of life for millions of Americans. “The teacher-scholar model at Marquette allows me to expose current students to cutting-edge research,” Hyngstrom says. “In addition to their growth as scholars, feedback from students helps me understand my research from a fresh perspective.” 9

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RESEARCH AND GRANTS DR. MARIEKE GILMARTIN RECEIVES $225,000 GRANT FROM THE WHITEHALL FOUNDATION Dr. Marieke Gilmartin, assistant professor of biomedical sciences, was recently awarded a $225,000 research grant from the Whitehall Foundation. According to its website, the foundation “assists dynamic areas of basic biological research that are not heavily supported by federal agencies or other foundations with specialized missions.” The grant, which provides $75,000 per year for three years, provides seed money to help Gilmartin develop her research program and facilitate competitive applications to federal granting agencies. “The foundation is unique because they value understanding how the nervous system functions in the normal, non-disease state,” Gilmartin says. Gilmartin’s proposed research has two aims, centered around the regulation of memory formation, specifically fear memory. The first is to determine the role of hippocampal input to the prefrontal cortex in the formation of fear memory, and the second is to determine the role of prefrontal input to the amygdala in facilitating the storage of those memories. “We want to determine how specific connections in the hippocampal-prefrontal-amygdala network drive the neuronal activity necessary in the initial encoding of these memories,” she says. Gilmartin’s work in memory formation and dysfunction are important in understanding a number of mental health disorders including depression, addiction, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder. 9

DR. ABIOLA KELLER RECEIVES $100,000 GRANT FROM THE ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant through its New Connections program to Dr. Abiola Keller, clinical assistant professor of physician assistant studies and director of clinical research. Keller, H Sci ’01, is among a select group of junior investigators to receive a 24-month grant from the foundation. The grant will allow Keller to evaluate the increasing role of non-physician providers in improving the quality and equity of depression treatment in the United States. According to the foundation, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, one crucial challenge will be addressing the current shortage of physician providers without compromising the quality and equity of health services. Keller’s research will be critical in determining the optimal distribution of health services between non-physician providers and physicians in primary care teams in order to improve depression outcomes. “I am honored to be among the junior investigators awarded with this prestigious grant,” says Keller. “This award will connect me to a network of established experts in research and evaluation related to health and health care, while providing me with an opportunity to evaluate a mechanism for health care delivery that has far-reaching implications for improving accessibility to depression services while maintaining high quality and equitable care.” 9

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Photo by Jesse Lee

Left to right; Dr. Robert Wheeler, Dr. John Mantsch, Dr. David Baker, Dr. Paul Gasser

BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES RESEARCHERS RECEIVE $1.85 MILLION GRANT TO STUDY NOVEL NEUROTRANSMITTER A group of neuroscientists in the Biomedical Sciences Department has been awarded a $1.85 million National Institutes of Health grant to examine a novel neurotransmitter clearance mechanism that may hold a key to understanding the link between stress and drug addiction, as well as other neuropsychiatric disorders. Dr. Paul Gasser, associate professor of biomedical sciences, is leading a collaborative team of neuroscientists including Drs. John Mantsch, David Baker and Robert Wheeler. “This could be a textbook-changing discovery,” Gasser says. “We’re looking at a novel mechanism related to stress and addiction. Indications are that this may explain how stressful life events contribute to a number of neuropsychiatric disorders.”

transporter 3 (OCT3). Stress, by elevating corticosterone, amplifies the ability of cocaine to increase dopamine levels, raising both the motivation to use the drug and the risk of relapse. “As important as this mechanism is for addiction, it also has implications for other neuropsychiatric diseases,” Gasser says. “Because OCT3 regulates levels of additional neurotransmitters beyond dopamine, we believe it may be critical to the onset of other stress-related conditions like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

“It really is a powerful example of a multidisciplinary approach to a complex problem ... ”

In the brain, cocaine blocks the re-uptake of dopamine — a neurotransmitter that mediates both natural and drug-induced rewards — increasing dopamine concentrations and leading, in part, to the “high” that drug users perceive. The team has demonstrated that corticosterone, a hormone released in response to stress, also inhibits dopamine re-uptake but through a distinct, previously unstudied transporter protein called organic cation

Dr. William Cullinan, dean of the College of Health Sciences and director of Marquette’s Integrative Neuroscience Research Center, views this R01 research grant as a testament to the collaborative neuroscience team the college has assembled.

“Each of the four neuroscience research laboratories contributing to this project brings its own innovative technologies and expertise. It really is a powerful example of a multidisciplinary approach to a complex problem that is best addressed through collaboration.”9

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Photos by Jesse Lee

Summer Research Program


marquette university college of health sciences magazine 2013

By Jesse Lee

Austin Bohn peers intently through a microscope, examining slides prepared by his fellow students and occasionally making notes. The freshman biomedical sciences student is one of 35 students — selected from an application process of nearly 170 — who are taking part in Marquette’s Summer Research Program. “Before I even graduated high school, I was volunteering in a National Institutes of Health-funded neuroscience lab,” Bohn says. “The work fascinated me, and I knew the Summer Research Program was the perfect way to spend my summer.” Bohn was placed in Dr. Robert Wheeler’s lab. Wheeler, assistant professor of biomedical sciences, studies the role of brain nuclei in motivational processing, examining the relationship between negative affect and drug-seeking behavior.

“One of the most important things I’ve learned here is that answers always yield more questions.” “This summer we worked on mapping out a particular circuit that has an established role in stress-induced cocaine relapse,” Bohn says. “The experience we gained in this program is invaluable.” According to Dr. Laurieann Klockow, clinical assistant professor of biomedical sciences and director of the Summer Research Program, that experience is exactly why the College of Health Sciences invests in the program and the students. “The program is important to the intellectual development of the students,” she says. “They learn to find answers for themselves and how to conduct research in a laboratory setting.” For another student in the program, Zachary Vandenberg, learning to research was the biggest draw. “I want to know if I want to pursue a doctoral degree or academic position later in life,” Vandenberg says. “If I don’t learn how to research, I won’t really know if that’s the path for me.” Vandenberg’s interests aligned with the work of Dr. Marie Hoeger Bement, associate professor of physical therapy. Bement’s research focuses on chronic pain and pain management.

Vandenberg’s contributions include examining conditioned pain modulation and exercise-induced hypoalgesia, or pain relief from exercise, in typical-weight and overweight adolescents. “I’ve learned so much,” he says. “I’ve learned to view pain from a broad biopsychosocial model, what it means to have an adequate power sample, even what it takes to get on the track toward that doctorate.” “By the end of the program, they’re designing their own experiments and running them independently,” Klockow says. “They have to deal with the setbacks and figure out solutions with the help of faculty.” Klockow says most of the summer research students continue working in labs throughout the school year, which is why it’s so important the program continues to receive support. Earlier this year, that support came in the form of a generous $50,000 gift, establishing the Hansen Scholars program and providing opportunities for students who wished to participate in the Summer Research Program. “The generous support of the program by a donor who wishes to remain anonymous has been absolutely essential,” says Dr. John Mantsch, chair and professor of biomedical sciences. “It comes at a time when university resources are very limited and the grant-funding environment for research support is more competitive than it has ever been. “Considering the scope and societal implications of the work being done in these labs, the Summer Research Program represents a uniquely transformative experience that not only positions students well for future success as scientists and health professionals, but provides them with a remarkable sense of accomplishment and empowerment that will remain with them long after they leave Marquette.” The experience the students gain is the ultimate evidence. “One of the most important things I’ve learned here is that answers always yield more questions,” Bohn says. “To me, science is about continuous learning and discovery, and this program gives us those opportunities.”

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Photo by Kat Schleicher

Dr. April Harkins

Women of SCIENCE

By Ann Christenson and Jesse Lee

Faculty members in the College of Health Sciences share a lot in common: They are great teachers, exceptional researchers and leaders in their respective fields. The eight faculty scientists profiled here share one more thing: They are women. When we made the decision to run a “Women of Science” feature for Health Sciences Magazine, we were unsure how the angle would be received — not from the readership, but from the women who were selected to be a part of this story. However, as we spoke with researchers, a common theme developed — while each of the scientists expressed pride in her role as a strong female leader, they all placed the highest importance on the level and quality of their research. The work these women do represents some of the most exciting science within the college and university. They’ve received large research grant awards to fund their studies, from the neuroscience of obesity and neuropsychiatric illness, to the effects of stroke on mobility and the musculoskeletal differences of men and women. They’ve been recognized nationally and internationally, presenting their work and speaking at professional conferences while working with the support of agencies like NASA and the National Institutes of Health, and their labs provide research opportunities for undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students alike. Their central point: When you think of women in science, the emphasis should be on the science. While it’s historically true that females are under-represented in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, the National Science Foundation recently reported the trend is changing. One reason for that is the dedication of women — of scientists — like those profiled here.

MILLIONS OF DOLLARS ... in grants that these faculty have collectively received to research areas such as the neuroscience of obesity and addiction, the effects of stroke on mobility and the musculoskeletal differences of men and women.

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As a scientist and researcher, Hunter’s reach is vast. She has been funded by the NIH for more than 11 years. In 2013, NASA enlisted her expertise for a panel charged with reporting on gender differences in the musculoskeletal system after long space flights. This summer, the Australia native traveled to Amsterdam to speak about gender-based differences in neuromuscular fatigue at a conference for the European College of Sport Science. In addition, Hunter was recently honored with a Teaching Excellence Award, Marquette’s highest teaching distinction, as well as the 201415 Way Klingler Fellowship in the sciences for her research into countering the effects of type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Sandra Hunter

Photo by John Nienhuis

It’s no surprise that Hunter, the director of Marquette’s Neuromuscular Physiology of Human Movement Laboratory, is an advocate of exercise, which she calls the “cornerstone of treatment and rehabilitation of many diseases.”

EXERCISE AND OBESITY DRS. BEMENT, HARKINS AND HUNTER “There’s so much to be done,” says Dr. Sandra Hunter, professor in the Exercise Science Program. Hunter’s gaze turns to the stacks of research materials on her desk. The conversation shifts to Hunter’s research on the competitive differences between male and female marathon runners. Her research on this topic was published in early 2013, but while she explains the results — her index finger tracing the lines on the graphs — her face glows. “Isn’t this fantastic?” The wealth of media attention her work has garnered would indicate it is, from a profile in The New York Times to interviews on Los Angeles’ NPR affiliate. Yet in this same moment, she is reminded of how much more she wants to accomplish.

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Dr. Marie Hoeger Bement, associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, champions physical movement as well. Bement’s focus is on chronic pain across the lifespan (12-year-olds to elders in their 90s), emphasizing nonpharmacological management, particularly exercise. Bement’s research targets not only those who suffer chronic pain (as is the case with fibromyalgia) but also children and adolescents struggling with obesity. Her research program has also examined gender and age differences in pain response after leg and arm exercises, and the extent to which body composition affects physical fitness in adolescence. In some of her research, Bement has collaborated with Hunter — who brings key exercise expertise — and Dr. April Harkins, H Sci ’98, whose microbiology and immunology background is vital to the clinical testing necessary for their research on everything from diabetes and obesity to muscle fatigue in the elderly. Says Bement of her colleagues: “Our research is stronger because of our collaboration.” Harkins’ office is adjacent to her research lab, where she studies disease-causing yeast and how it is able to form biofilms on medical devices such as catheters. Researchers have estimated that from 60 to 80 percent of bodily infections are caused by biofilms. The yeast Candida is one of the most common of those infections. “We’re driven,” says Harkins, the chair of the Department of Clinical Laboratory Science. “We love science and like to ask questions.” Whether it concerned her own research achievements or those of her colleagues in the College of Health Sciences, “We applaud each other’s successes,” says Harkins, adding “Marquette is on the cusp of great research strides.”

N E U R O S C I E N C E DRS. CHOI, EVANS AND GILMARTIN “I don’t think of myself as a ‘woman scientist.’ I’m a scientist.” Dr. Jennifer Evans, assistant professor of biomedical sciences, speaks this sentiment, but her colleagues, Dr. SuJean Choi and Dr. Marieke Gilmartin, agree. Like most of the faculty in biomedical sciences, these professors’ focus is on their research and students. When they take a moment to reflect on their roles as strong female leaders in their respective research fields, the distinction “women of science” seems strange to them at first. However, they admit that while they personally try not to make that distinction, it’s something of which they’re always reminded. “The higher you advance in science, the fewer women there are,” says Gilmartin, assistant professor of biomedical sciences. “At each level, it thins out.” Ironically, it was a “woman scientist” who helped shaped the very department in which Choi, Evans and Gilmartin now work. Dr. Linda Vaughn, professor and former chair of biomedical sciences, was one of the key architects of the program more than 15 years ago. “We were focused on hiring the best researchers and teachers,” Vaughn says. “Ultimately we would have preferred a better ratio of males to females, but when we began, our applicant pool was fairly small.

goal is to develop new therapies to prevent and alleviate health risks like depression that can occur when rhythms are disrupted. Gilmartin examines how dysfunction in the neural circuitry of memory formation can lead to behaviors observed in disorders like schizophrenia, depression and addiction. She also deploys cutting-edge techniques like optogenetics, which manipulates genetically sensitized neurons with light in order to study neural networks with great temporal specificity. The three researchers credit the College of Health Sciences for building a program where scientists can collaborate to succeed. “The team environment of the department was very important to me,” Evans says. “It’s an enthusiastic group using complementary techniques. In just eight months here, I’ve been exposed to new ways of thinking about my science.” In the Biomedical Sciences Department, that’s the ultimate goal — to attract and retain scientific talent at the highest levels in order to build a cohesive neuroscience team capable of tackling complex problems of the nervous system. “We’ve amassed an entire group of successful neuroscientists — men and women,” Choi says. “In this environment, everyone flourishes.”

“Now, having built this neuroscience environment, our applicant pools are much larger and much more competitive.” As a recent search committee chair, Choi, associate professor of biomedical sciences, continues to carry forth the vision of building a collaborative group of neuroscience researchers while ensuring that future faculty are selected fairly. “One of the reasons I was chair of the search committee — in which we ultimately hired both Jenn and Marieke — was to make sure gender was an important criteria,” Choi says. “Every female candidate was given a fair chance.”

Choi studies the mechanisms of feeding behavior, body weight regulation and obesity. She recently received a $400,000 National Institutes of Health grant to examine a novel cellular mechanism in the brain, which involves a membrane protein that transports the transmitter glutamate in a non-traditional manner.

Photo by Kat Schleicher

When looking at their research labs, it’s obvious that cutting-edge science is the main focus. All three neuroscientists look at circuits that regulate behavior, but in different ways — their research fits into a highly collaborative “systems” modality of neuroscience.

Dr. Marieke Gilmartin

Evans’ research is focused on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that generate circadian rhythms, and how environmental and genetic factors can affect these rhythms. Her

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Dr. Allison Hyngstrom


“I like to think of it as a ‘pack’ mentality in the best sense of the term — we’re on a mission.” every angle. The cameras allow Hyngstrom and her students to perform sophisticated measurements of joint speed.

Of the support from her scientific colleagues in the college, all engrossed in research, she says, “I like to think of it as a ‘pack’ mentality in the best sense of the term — we’re on a mission.” Dr. Sheila Schindler-Ivens, H Sci ’89, spends some time talking about the brain and neuromuscular system before she arrives at what she calls her “true love” — the restoration of leg function following stroke. The associate professor of physical therapy waxes eloquent on the topic of her research, and then how it developed. As a high school student, Schindler-Ivens spent an afternoon with a physical therapist. One of the stroke patients in the therapist’s clinic exhibited left-side neglect — a lack of awareness on that side of the body. “When I look back, that moment drove everything,” Schindler-Ivens says, from her training as a physical therapist, to her doctoral work, to her research program.

The genesis for Hyngstrom’s career occurred well before her university classes. Years after her cousin suffered a spinal cord injury, she ran across a photo of her then-teenage relative, who was 10 years Hyngstrom’s senior. It was in seeing the picture that Hyngstrom developed her interest in helping those paralyzed by neuromuscular disease or injury. After practicing physical therapy at the prestigious Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, she returned to graduate school to pursue her doctorate.

Schindler-Ivens and her team have crafted a novel way to study the brain’s influence on locomotion. While a test volunteer’s brain is scanned inside a functional MRI machine, the subject is instructed to simultaneously pedal a uniquely crafted bicycle. Schindler-Ivens’ team built the cycling device using wooden pedals and Velcro sandals, avoiding metal structures incompatible with the strong magnetism involved in MRI. The subjects pedal under various conditions, while the research staff analyzes brain activity in response to motion in the legs.

This year she received multiple NIH grant awards to fund her research program, as well as the university’s Way Klingler Young Scholar Award, an award that will allow her to pen another grant application to further fund her research on neuromuscular fatigue and develop a protocol of training that will build leg function after stroke.

It’s intriguing work, which Schindler-Ivens continues to test by amending the bike itself so that each leg’s movement can be studied separately. The goal is to tailor the rehabilitation process based on the findings and facilitate recovery for stroke survivors, a shared goal with her colleague Hyngstrom.

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Photo by Dan Johnson

It looks like a treadmill. Only it’s not your ordinary treadmill. It’s called a split-belt unit, which means there is a division down the center of the walking surface. The device looks like two narrow treadmills in parallel and its design allows researchers to measure the force of each leg of a test volunteer separately. That is crucial to Dr. Allison Hyngstrom, assistant professor of physical therapy, who is focused on the dynamics of leg function post-stroke, requiring simultaneous analysis at different speeds. Cameras mounted high on the walls surround the treadmill from

Photo by Kat Schleicher

Dr. Sheila Schindler-Ivens



a sixth sense By Jesse Lee

“I didn’t plan to go to Marquette,” Vora says. “But then I got a brochure about the doctor of physical therapy program and I knew it was for me.”

“You just know when things are right and you have to seize those opportunities,” Vora says. “I learned that at Marquette.” Vora, H Sci ’04, PT ’06, sent in her deposit that day, never having set foot on campus. “My parents said, ‘Shouldn’t we go visit, see the campus?’ I told them I didn’t need to; I knew that was where I wanted to go. Orientation day was my first time on campus at Marquette.” She got involved in extracurricular activities and studying very quickly, but Vora says she hit her stride in her sophomore and junior years as she got to know her way around the College of Health Sciences.

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“At that point, I really felt at home,” Vora says. “The faculty were so accessible and I felt a sense of community in the college.” During that time, in early 2003, a friend who went on mission trips to Honduras every year invited her along. Vora joined a group of 25 students and medical doctors, collecting supplies and paying their way to Central America. When they completed their trip, Vora knew she had to return. “I thought to myself, ‘We can’t forget them,’ ” she says. “We couldn’t just help these people once and then leave them to fend for themselves. It had to be sustainable.” Acting on another of her gut instincts, Vora returned to Honduras in December 2003 with another group of doctors. This time it was a completely student-led effort, and from that trip Vora and a partner founded Global Brigades, Inc. Vora says through word of mouth the organization began to spread to other universities. “The first full year, 2004, it started at Marquette and spread to Michigan and Southern California,” Vora recalls. “By March 2005 we had 80 universities running trips.” As of 2014, there are 475 universities in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland participating in the Global Brigades organization. “You just know when things are right and you have to seize those opportunities,” Vora says. “I learned that at Marquette. The College of Health Sciences is full of these amazing professors and you aspire to reach the caliber of those individuals.”

Photo by Jesse Lee

Dr. Shital Vora is a woman who trusts her instincts. When she has a good feeling about something, she acts on it. It hasn’t failed her yet.


— STARTED BY STUDENTS IN THE BASEMENT OF THE COLLEGE OF HEALTH SCIENCES BUILDING — IS NOW THE WORLD’S LARGEST STUDENT-LED HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATION The numbers speak to the power of Global Brigades. Not even 10 years after that first trip, some 12,500 student volunteers have served 300,000 people. More than 475 Global Brigades chapters have sprung up at universities across the United States, Canada and Europe. They bustle with some 5,500 undergrads annually trekking to remote villages halfway around the globe to work in nine specialty areas: medical, dental, public health, water, business, micro-finance, law, environmental and architecture. So far, six service programs are set up in Honduras, five in Panama and four in Ghana. From peering down the throats of kids with tonsillitis to extracting abscessed teeth, from teaching the villagers to build eco-stoves that keep their huts free from lung-clogging soot to pouring concrete floors that cut down on parasites, Global Brigades wholistically transforms the lives of people who live in unthinkable poverty.

By Barbara Mahany, Nurs ’79 Excerpted and edited from Marquette Magazine, Summer 2012



1952 1971

1972 1973

1976 1976

1982 1985

1986 1986

1986–90 1994 1999





2006 2007

2009 2009


Photo by Jesse Lee



the life and near-death

don neumann of

By Jesse Lee

Don Neumann is 19 and a world of possibility lies before him, but he doesn’t want to think about that right now. Right now he wants to ride. He bought the motorcycle, a Honda CB500, two weeks ago, and he’s cruising the Florida Keys thinking about nothing — completely carefree. His entire world is about to change.

Gray’s Anatomy, the definitive text on human anatomy first published in 1858. His curriculum vitae is 31 pages long.

“To those whose lives have been strengthened by the struggle and joy of learning.”

“I take the power of knowledge seriously,” he says. “I’m so lucky with my students; every year there’s another hungry person. I know what it is to have that thirst for knowledge, because I really had to struggle. It didn’t come easily to me.”

That’s the inscription in Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System, Foundations for Rehabilitation, Second Edition, Dr. Don Neumann’s hallmark book. It’s been translated into six languages and is used around the world as the foremost text on kinesiology. Neumann, professor of physical therapy, is one of Marquette’s most decorated educators and researchers. He has more Fulbright Awards — four — than the organization typically allows in a lifetime. He received Marquette’s Teacher of the Year award and was named Wisconsin Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation. He’s been chosen to write a chapter for the 41st edition of

Neumann may also be the most humble professor at Marquette. He’ll talk about his accomplishments, but only after being asked about them. He’d much rather talk about his students and the joy he gets from helping someone learn.

Don Neumann is 19 and he’s dying. His bike and his body are twisted wreckage and he passes in and out of consciousness. The car that hit him broke his legs and pelvis and crushed his hip. A priest administers last rites. “Did you know polio played a pivotal role in the development of the physical therapy profession?” Polio is an important topic to Neumann. His father, a world-renowned hurricane forecaster, has lived more than 60 years with the effects of the disease.

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“He was a Hurricane Hunter in the ’50s,” Neumann says. “He was a meteorologist with the U.S. Navy who flew around the Pacific and Atlantic oceans looking for storms, and that’s when he contracted polio.” The polio epidemic, beginning around 1916 and hitting its peak in the 1940s and ’50s, created an increased need for physical rehabilitation and therapy as people learned to live with the effects of the disease. Neumann’s father, who continued his work as a meteorologist after contracting the disease, serves as an example of the fruits of hard work and perseverance. “I admired that,” Neumann says. “I admire anyone who can overcome an obstacle like that.”

Don Neumann is 19 and there is pain, but there’s also hope. Through his experience, he now knows what he wants to do with his life. It started with a simple statement, delivered by his physical therapist: “Here’s what you need to do to walk again.”


“I want to do what that guy does.” That’s how Neumann describes the spark of his desire to become a physical therapist. Neumann identified with his own therapist, partly because the experience gave him the direction he felt he was lacking, partly because it gave him hope and a struggle to overcome.

therapy program. The deal was, if I received a Fulbright to come to Lithuania, the university would start a program.” He received the Fulbright Scholar Award — his first — in 2002, and traveled to Kaunas Medical University to teach. “My first textbook, Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System, was coming out just as I was getting ready to leave for Lithuania,” he says. Neumann packed 30 textbooks and 10 skeletons for the trip, and he gave them to the students, no charge. “This is the first time they’ve had a kinesiology textbook and the whole thing is in English,” he says. “I was teaching people physical therapy in a language they didn’t fully understand — but they had the desire to learn and that overcame the language barrier.” Two students in particular had a profound impact on Neumann during his Lithuania trip.

those whose

lives have been

strengthened by the struggle and joy of learning.”

“I got to know physical therapy very well from the patient’s perspective,” Neumann says. “For all those months, I thought, ‘How do I become a PT?’ ” After leaving the hospital, he began by pursuing an associate’s degree as a physical therapist assistant from Miami Dade Community College. He then went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from the University of Florida.

One of those students, Rolandas Kesminas, was a multilingual student in Neumann’s class who helped translate the lectures so the other students could understand the lessons. He still maintains a friendship and mentorship with Neumann, and is now a teacher himself. While Neumann can’t recall the name of the other student, he does remember his class experiences with him and it’s another example of the struggle that Neumann both admires and understands.

“He had the highest grade in the class,” Neumann remembers, “which is remarkable because in addition to not speaking the language, he’s also completely blind. He completed the entire course by touch.” After Lithuania, Neumann continued to teach around the world, receiving grants to work in Hungary and Japan. But he still remembers that time as a formative part of his storied teaching career.

Neumann practiced as a physical therapist at Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Virginia before moving to Iowa to earn a master’s degree in science education and a Ph.D. in exercise science at the University of Iowa.

“It changed my life,” Neumann says. “That’s why I take teaching so seriously — when you work with people who have such desire and passion to learn that they can overcome those obstacles, the experience is powerful.”

He came to Marquette in 1986, and it was through his work and teaching here that he began to change the landscape of physical therapy around the world.

Dr. Don Neumann is 62 and, as his life was changed more than four decades ago, he’s changed the lives of thousands of students. His humility and his passion were borne of his struggle and in helping others overcome theirs, he finds the satisfaction of a job well done and a job worth doing. The awards and the accolades highlight an illustrious career. The struggle — and the strength to overcome — defines it.

One of the persistent rumors that follows Neumann is the notion that he introduced the practice of physical therapy to the country of Lithuania. “That’s not quite accurate,” Neumann says, smiling as he recalls his time there. “I taught in the first medical university-based physical

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Polio first makes an appearance in the United States and reaches its peak in the 1940s and 1950s. The need for physical therapy and rehabilitation increases as people learn to live with the disease.


Charles Neumann, a world-renowned weather forecaster and Don’s father, contracts polio on one of his hurricane hunting expeditions in the Caribbean.


Don Neumann is born. 1971

A severe motorcycle accident becomes a defining moment for Neumann. 1972

Neumann receives an associate’s degree as a physical therapist assistant from Miami Dade Community College.


Neumann takes a PT position at the Green Briar Nursing Home in Miami, where his interest in kinesiology is sparked by the mentorship of his boss, Shep Barish.



Neumann receives a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from the University of Florida.

Neumann starts as a staff physical therapist at the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville, Va. 1982

Neumann receives a master’s degree in science education from the University of Iowa.


He receives the Mary McMillan Scholarship Award from the American Physical Therapy Association.

1986 1986

Neumann receives a Ph.D. in exercise science from the University of Iowa.

Neumann comes to Marquette as an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy. 1986–90

The Arthritis Foundation funds Neumann’s hip research at Marquette.


Neumann wins Marquette’s Teacher of the Year Award.


Neumann receives the Jack Walker Award for the best article on clinical research published in Physical Therapy.


Neumann receives his first Fulbright award and travels to Lithuania to teach the country’s first university-based physical therapy program.


Neumann’s first book, Essentials of Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System, is published.


Neumann becomes a professor in Marquette’s Department of Physical Therapy.


He receives his second and third Fulbrights. 2006

Neumann is named the Carnegie Foundation’s College Professor of the Year for Wisconsin.


He receives an honorary doctorate from the Lithuanian Academy of Physical Education in Kaunas honoring his work growing the country’s physiotherapy education.

2009 2009

Neumann receives his fourth Fulbright.

Neumann’s second book, Kinesiology for the Physical Therapist Assistant, is published.


Multiple editions of Neumann’s kinesiology textbooks — for physical therapist assistants and physical therapists — are translated into six languages and used around the world.


Neumann teaches in 12 different countries on four continents.


Neumann edits the chapter “Hip,” which is published in the 41st edition of British Gray’s Anatomy.



dura mater

stria terminalis



e icu at sc cu fa ar

circle of willis

corpus callosum






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g al


li g n

The brain explained. Marquette’s unique summer brain course is an enlightening 3D journey through brain form and function — and a window into the college’s invaluable gross anatomy traditions. By Stephen Filmanowicz

It’s day one of Marquette’s summer brain dissection course, lunch time. After a meal of lasagna and salad, Jessica Alva is no longer hungry, but a different sort of intellectual craving remains. The truth is she’s been gripped by a deep-seated curiosity for a while now. It’s what prompted her to sign up for this course back in April, the same week she learned of it — and what got her in her car yesterday for the 430-mile drive from her home in Cleveland to Milwaukee. And this yearning has only continued growing this morning as Dr. William Cullinan, course founder, professor, and dean of the College of Health Sciences, has taken the 90 course participants on an illuminating slideshow tour of the brain features — including arteries, cranial nerves and major fiber pathways — they’ll soon inspect in the lab, scalpels in hand. At the lunch table, course participants talk about what brought them here. Several are young doctoral students in clinical psychology, like Alva, seeking to signal their seriousness about brain study and improve their chances of landing prized internships in neuropsychology. And serious they are. Through her program at Case Western Reserve University, Alva works with patients whose struggles with language, memory or other forms of cognition suggest impairments in certain regions of their brain, perhaps damage from a stroke or Alzheimer’s disease. It’s vital, absorbing work — and personal too, since Alva’s father has struggled with earlyonset Alzheimer’s disease since being diagnosed when she was 16 and he was 59.

Still, the organ at the center of her attention remains somewhat obscure to her. She has never seen or inspected a human brain. The closest she’s come is a sheep brain dissected for an undergraduate biology course. Her curiosity had grown to the point that her husband, mother and other family members had all heard her lament that her brain anatomy experiences would probably end there. But that all changed in April when she learned of this course from a colleague, a postdoctoral fellow in neuropsychology who said the course has a strong following in his profession. “Human dissection is really a dream of mine,” she tells her tablemates. Spending the better part of three summer days in a windowless room with brain specimens and cadavers might be a tough sell for some people, she acknowledges. “But not me. I can hardly wait.”

Arriving from nearly every state — and sometimes even crossing international borders to reach campus — educators, psychologists, physical therapists and a range of medical professionals know they are in for something special when they arrive in Cramer Hall on the third Thursday in July for Neuroanatomical Dissection: Human Brain and the Spinal Cord. “To our knowledge, it is the only place in the world where you can come and dissect a human brain,” says Cullinan. Even more

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Photo by Jesse Lee

A course of this type requires a course leader who is intimately familiar with blunt dissection, a constraint that goes a long way in explaining the technique’s disappearance from medical schools and the few other settings where brain dissection is offered.

importantly, it is a three-day immersion in a revealing yet vanishing method of anatomical discovery known as blunt dissection. In blunt dissection, the scientist wields the scalpel with the care of a sculptor before a block of clay. What’s revealed as she or he painstakingly removes brain tissue, starting with the outer coverings, surface arteries and cortical gray matter, are the brain’s deeper structures in all of their precisely interconnected complexity. Regarded as a gold standard at top medical schools as recently as the 1980s, blunt dissection gave way in the space of a decade or so to the much simpler practice of viewing two-dimensional sliced cross sections of the brain. By contrast, Cullinan says, “This is a very different technique, where we incrementally take the brain apart from the outside in, with a view toward the threedimensional relationships of the fiber pathways to the cell-rich so-called gray matter.” It is in revealing these white-matter pathways and their role in transporting myriad brain signals exactly where they need to go that the technique shines. “The beauty of the blunt technique is that you can expose that.”

“There is a shortage of people classically trained as anatomists and you can understand why,” explains Cullinan. “Nerves and muscles are not being discovered anymore. It’s all been done, with rare exception, and new discoveries are taking place at the cellular and molecular levels.” In his student days, as his research interests shifted to the microscopic scale along with those of his fellow neuroscientists — toward neurons, synapses and genes — Cullinan had been advised not to overlook the lessons of gross anatomy, which reveal the brain and body structures visible to the human eye. While earning his doctorate at the University of Virginia, he volunteered to serve as lab assistant for the blunt dissection courses taught by Dr. Lennart Heimer, a renowned Swedish-American neuroscientist whose neuroanatomy textbook and videotaped demonstrations were then standard fare at many medical schools. At Heimer’s side, Cullinan got his classical training. Beyond the question of expertise, there are practical considerations to address in offering blunt dissection on this scale. To stand up to scalpel pressure, soft brain specimens must be specially preserved. Treated with enough (but not too much) fixative, the tissue reaches the delicate consistency of steamed cauliflower. “We store them in a formaldehyde solution for six months before these dissections begin,” says Cullinan. “And we rinse them like crazy before the course so there are no vapors coming from them.”

“To our knowledge, it is the only place in the world where you can come and dissect a human brain.”

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And there’s no denying the need for a large number of generous donors providing brain specimens. When he joined Marquette’s biomedical sciences faculty in the mid-1990s, Cullinan had these favorable conditions essentially waiting for him here, though just out of view. By then, Marquette physical therapy professor Dr. Donald Neumann, an anatomical expert in his own right (see story on page 24), had established a popular four-day summer extremities dissection course that continues to this day. “Hey Don, what becomes of brains in the cadavers used in your course?” Cullinan asked one day. They were cremated along with the rest of the remains, he was told. “I thought it was a tragic wasted opportunity,” he recalls. “So I asked, ‘Would you mind if I used them in a brain dissection course?’ ”

Fast forward nearly two decades, and the brain course, now in its 18th year, is off to a typically fast start. After lunch, students reconvene in the lecture hall where a general game plan for the afternoon’s dissection is provided by none other than Heimer, in video form. Thanks to master tapes retrieved from the vault and converted to DVD, Heimer’s instructions live on: his Swedishinflected expertise matched with pixelated subtitles and other Atari-era production values that never fail to amuse students. Concluding his first demonstration, Heimer turns to the camera and shares timeless advice to those about to pick up their scalpels. “Don’t be too bold,” he chirps melodiously, “but don’t be too shy either.” Within a few minutes, the course participants are not only in scrubs, aprons and gloves, but are also evenly distributed among 15 dissection tables. Alva is joined by psychologists from Milwaukee and New York City, as well as Dr. Sujay Galen, an assistant clinical professor of physical therapy at Wayne State University in Detroit. Assigned to teach neuroanatomy this year, Galen says, “I figured I could either sit by myself and read a textbook day after day, or I could come here and work in 3D with real brain specimens.” Not surprisingly, Alva is first to the table for the opening move: removing the dura mater or “tough

mother,” the outer covering that resembles a thick, durable cabbage leaf. She confidently peels it back, applying just enough pressure to extricate it from deep crevices without damaging the cortex below. A few minutes later, she and Galen are taking turns at another brain sample — a hemisphere formed by cutting the brain vertically along its midline into left and right halves. They are doing their best to emulate what Cullinan demonstrates from his station, projected on video screens around the room. Using the handle end of the scalpel to flake off small pieces of gray matter, they strive for the prescribed balance — neither too shy, nor too bold — but aren’t sure they’ve found it. The parts of the brain aren’t color-coded as they are in textbooks, notes Alva. Have they scraped too much or too little to see the first pathways — horizontal associative fibers that relay signals within the cortex? How deep will they find the dramatic up-and-down pathways of the corona radiata? Or closer to the brain’s base and posterior, the flurry of fibers that send signals to and from the brain’s vision center? Fortunately, a welcome sight arrives in the form of a dissection coach who happens to be a neuroscientist with at least 80 publications to his credit, Dr. Robert Thompson of the University of Michigan. Back in year one, realizing he needed more neuroscience firepower for the course, Cullinan enlisted two colleagues with whom he’d just served as postdoctoral research fellows at the University of Michigan, Thompson and Dr. James Herman, now of the University of Cincinnati. They’ve come every year since, often bringing families, enjoying evening barbecues and generally making a summertime tradition of the course. Holding the hemisphere in his hands, pointing out surface landmarks and dispensing phrases such as “we’re looking for striations of white matter posterior to the horn of the ventricle,” Thompson soon has confidence growing among the tablemates and white matter pathways emerging in their specimen, striated like string cheese. It helps that he offers advice with enthusiasm and a cheeriness in his eyes that isn’t surprising from a genetic specialist whose work email address is mutant@ his university’s domain. Working another table in the room, Herman

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Photo by Jesse Lee

Brain course participants, Jessica Alva and Dr. Sujay Galen

brings roughly equivalent levels of authority and affability to the task. Although Thompson’s research aims for molecularlevel breakthroughs involving the roles of genes in stress response, he explains his commitment to this brain course like this: In understanding the microscopic-level interactions of the brain, there’s no getting around their rootedness within the brain’s intricately connected architecture. “I figured out pretty early that if you’re going to be in real estate, it’s hard to ignore ‘location, location, location.’ The same principle applies when you’re working with the brain,” he says. “And really, as an educator, it’s simply wonderful to come back year after year and to teach professionals who may not have had an opportunity to study the brain this way. They have real life experiences, real life stories relating to what they’ve seen in clinical practice. They’re

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passionate. It’s not that you can’t find students who are like this in other settings, but when an entire group is like this, it’s wonderful.”

Exotic as they may seem, Marquette’s summer brain and extremities dissection courses reflect a commitment to gross anatomy that permeates and helps to define the College of Health Sciences. The college offers the most popular undergraduate major on campus, biomedical sciences, which typically enrolls between 150 and 175 freshmen per year. During their sophomore year, these students all take an anatomy lecture course taught by Cullinan. Then about two-thirds continue into a comprehensive three-part dissection course. (The remaining third includes students aspiring to join physical therapy or physician assistant programs that offer their own dissection experiences.) And the

middle part of that course is blunt dissection of the human brain, the same training that draws summer brain course participants from across the country. This nearly unprecedented level of undergraduate “gross lab” exposure has surprised some peers in the health sciences through the years. “I think people wondered, ‘How?’ ” says Cullinan. “ ‘How are you getting all these cadavers for undergraduates?’ ” The answer has a lot to do with the kind of resourcefulness that helped launch the brain course 18 years ago. The dissections that the college leads for Marquette’s 400-plus dental students concentrate on the head, neck, and upper thorax. Neumann’s course only involves the extremities. Put together what’s untouched in both settings, including brains, and you have the basis for full-scale dissection course for undergraduates. It’s an outstanding foundation for a biomedical sciences curriculum whose focus grows progressively more microscopic over four years, say faculty members. And it’s even been an engine of the college’s enrollment growth. Many undergraduates who have completed the dissection course become lab assistants the following year. “We get a lot of high school students interested in touring the gross anatomy lab,” explains Cullinan. “They hear our undergraduate teaching assistants speaking with such authority about the human body, and want to come here and become those teaching assistants. It’s remarkable.” Realizing the invaluable debt that the college and its students owe those who donate their bodies for anatomical study, college faculty members are committed to honoring the gift. Although the mood in the gross lab can be lighter than expected for the uninitiated, it is never so at the expense of cadavers. Personal photography is strictly prohibited. And students carefully keep any tissue removed from each donor in individual receptacles to be cremated with the rest of the body and returned to families as ashes. “For these donors, their time here is a temporary stopover between death and cremation,” he says to the summer course participants, “We always try to remember that in the way we treat specimens in the lab.”

Given the range of anatomy experience participants bring to the summer brain course, often rather light among the core audience of psychologists, Cullinan aims for a moderate level of detail and difficulty. “We have to pitch it down the middle, so we don’t bore people or blow people away.” Nevertheless, a widely shared perception among participants is that the course’s knowledge spigot is open pretty wide from the start. “Someone next to me said she studied for a week and all of that material was covered in the first 10 minutes of the first lecture,” reports Galen. “I realize I have so much more to know,” relates Alva. “But sometimes those wake-up calls are a good thing.” Karina Powell, a doctoral student in the Illinois Institute of Technology’s joint program in clinical and rehabilitation psychology, registered for the course after multiple colleagues described it as “awesome.” She has found its scope awesome as well. At a casual reception following the first afternoon’s dissection, she and a few coursemates had an opportunity to engage in a long conversation with Thompson and Herman. “When did you feel that you really had this stuff down?” she pressed Thompson at one point. “His answer was fantastic,” she relates. “He said, ‘I educated myself here, taught it from clinical perspective there and did research somewhere else, and somewhere along the way it all solidified.’ ” Although still feeling humbled by what’s been revealed to them in the last 54 hours, by Saturday’s final dissection, Powell and fellow participants seem noticeably more proficient as they clear away tissue and point out once-obscure landmarks such as the pons, cerebellar peduncle and dentate nucleus. In other words, they resemble the teaching assistants who make such strong impressions on prospective students touring the lab. How has the course compared to her expectations, Powell is asked. “Oh my goodness, it has way exceeded them,” she says. “This has been one of the most enjoyable educational experiences I’ve had in my entire life, hands down. I’m pretty sure I have to do this again next year.”

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Marquette University College of Health Sciences

P.O. Box 1881, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201-1881 USA

A HEALTHY CURIOSITY. AN INSPIRED APPROACH. In the College of Health Sciences, we are inspired to use what we learn to improve the lives of others. And we believe that we all benefit from sharing what we’ve discovered. Marquette Presents is a forum series by the College of Health Sciences in which we showcase the research and expertise of faculty and friends of the college on critical topics like concussion, schizophrenia, spinal cord injury and more. It’s where we explore the science that heals.

College of Health Sciences Magazine 2014  

College of Health Sciences Magazine 2014