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A Publication for Alumni and Friends of the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine

Diversity, Inclusion, Community Engagement New Program Creates Pathways to Medical School

[ Spr i ng /Su m m e r 2019 ]


I am grateful to be writing this Dean’s Message to you as executive dean of the OU College of Medicine. In May, the OU Board of Regents approved the title following my tenure as interim dean. It is my great honor to be serving in this role, and I look forward to working with colleagues across our state to continue our successes and build on our opportunities for improving health in Oklahoma and nationally. The stories in this edition of the OU Medicine magazine are representative of the innovations that our faculty, students and staff are undertaking to improve the care that we provide to our patients. Meeting today’s challenges in medicine means that we must think and work in new ways and forge new partnerships. The formation of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement is an important step in that direction. Creating a culture of diversity and inclusion is crucial in a setting where we are training the next generation of physicians and treating a diverse population. The community partnerships we are making will create pathways to medical school for students from under-represented groups, who are then more likely to return to those communities to practice. Through these partnerships, and understanding the specific needs of various communities throughout Oklahoma, we will be able to make more significant contributions toward improving health.

Dean’s Message

We see innovation at work in our geroscience research and the $10.7 million grant recently awarded college researchers, who will provide a deeper understanding of the higher disease risks we all face simply by growing older. We see the same dedication in the area of cancer research. With a $10.8 million grant, the Stephenson Cancer Center will, once again, expand its clinical trials program, enhancing the ability of our researchers and physicians to find new answers for treating complex types of cancer. Our faculty members are also leveraging new technology and ingenuity to improve the care we deliver to our patients. Our neurosurgeons were the first to use a new medical device to treat aneurysms by diverting the flow of blood, thereby decreasing their potential for rupture. In the area of cardiology, one of our physicians saw 10 years of research come to fruition by showing a decrease in symptoms associated with atrial fibrillation through the use of a non-invasive device. These are just a few examples of the efforts we are making to discover new solutions for patients. By thinking creatively and reaching beyond the boundaries of our campus, we will build upon our foundation of knowledge to address new challenges. No doubt our medical students, residents and graduate students who are learning from us today will also take these innovations and collaborations into their future careers and make even more advances. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to lead the OU College of Medicine and to be surrounded by such innovative thinkers. Together, we will make a difference in the health and well-being of the people of Oklahoma and beyond.

John P. Zubialde, M.D. Executive Dean

contents OU MEDICINE

University of Oklahoma College of Medicine Senior Vice President and Provost Jason Sanders, M.D., MBA Executive Dean, College of Medicine John Zubialde, M.D. Executive Editor Jon Brightbill Associate Dean for Executive Affairs Assistant Vice President of Development, OU Health Sciences Center Stacey Maxon Editor/Feature Writer April Wilkerson

TABLE OF CONTENTS 04. Vital Signs 18. New Executive Dean After serving as interim executive dean since July 2018, John Zubialde,

M.D., was named the new dean of the College of Medicine in May.

22. Major Clinical Trials Grant The National Cancer Institute awarded a $10.8 million grant to the

Stephenson Cancer Center to expand its clinical trials program .

26. Nerve Stimulation In a novel research study, cardiologist Stavros Stavrakis, M.D., Ph.D.,

showed that vagus nerve stimulation – through a clip on a person’s ear

– can significantly reduce the symptoms of atrial fibrillation.

32. Ovarian Cancer Study Stephenson Cancer Center gynecologist-oncologist Joan Walker, M.D.,

OU Medicine is published twice a year by the OU College of Medicine. For more information or to submit news for the Class Notes section, contact: April Wilkerson, Editor (405) 271-2850 OU Medicine is online at The University of Oklahoma, in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, age, religion, disability, political beliefs or status as a veteran in any of its policies, practices or procedures. This includes, but is not limited to: admissions, employment, financial aid and educational services. Inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies may be directed to: Bobby J. Mason, University Equal Opportunity Officer and Title IX Coordinator, 405-325-3546,, or visit Copies of this magazine were printed at no cost to the taxpayers of the State of Oklahoma. © 2019 University of Oklahoma


During a gathering this summer, OU College of Medicine faculty, students and staff learn more about the new Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement. Story on page 16.

was the senior author of a large clinical trial that revealed good news for

women with ovarian cancer – longer survival times plus a treatment option

that causes fewer difficult side effects.

34. Distinctive Graduates Members of the Class of 2019 at the OU-TU School of Community

Medicine hold the distinction of being the first group to have spent all four

years of their medical education at the Tulsa campus.

37. Technological Advance OU Medicine vascular surgeons in Tulsa were the first surgical team in the

United States to use a new device for creating an arteriovenous fistula for

patients needing kidney dialysis.

38. Faculty News 40. Evening of Excellence Trauma surgeon Roxie Albrecht, M.D., and singer and philanthropists

Toby and Tricia Keith were honored during the 2019 Evening of Excellence,

which raises funds for College of Medicine research grants.

42. Alumni News Alumni Day honors three in 2019; two alumni presented university-wide awards. The OU College of Medicine Alumni Association is now on Facebook. Like us at

Web Extras: Visit for additional stories and photos about the OU College of Medicine.


David M. Kelley, M.D., left, this year’s Stanton L. Young Master Teacher Award winner, is pictured with College of Medicine Executive Dean John Zubialde, M.D.

OU College of Medicine Presents Stanton L. Young Master Teacher Award

In presenting the award, John P. Zubialde, M.D., executive dean of the OU College of Medicine, said Kelley is “a man who is revered by his students for his unparalleled passion for providing physicians with the skills and mindset necessary to advance the practice of personalized and meaningful healthcare.”

The University of Oklahoma College of Medicine presented its major award for excellence in medical education this spring to faculty member David M. Kelley, M.D.

In their letters of nominations, medical students said Kelley connects with them on a personal level and values their opinions. He teaches them not only the complexities of medicine but the individual growth that can occur with an understanding of self.

Kelley was presented the Stanton L. Young Master Teacher Award during a ceremony at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club. This is the 36th year the award has been presented. It was established through an endowment made by the late Oklahoma City businessman Stanton L. Young. The award comes with a $15,000 cash prize, one of the largest in the nation for medical teaching excellence. A family medicine physician, Kelley serves as assistant professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the OU College of Medicine. In addition to his busy clinical practice, Kelley is director of the family medicine clerkship, in which medical students rotate through family medicine clinics as part of their education. He also is director for the department’s Division of Undergraduate Education, helping to shape the family medicine experience for medical students.


“He ends every patient encounter by thanking his patients for allowing him to serve them as their doctor. This perspective on the patient-doctor relationship is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in medical school,” one of his students said. Kelley, a native of Colorado, earned his medical degree from Loyola Stritch School of Medicine and completed his residency training at Adventist LaGrange Memorial Hospital, both in Illinois. Before coming to the OU College of Medicine, he practiced in Racine, Wisconsin. He and his wife, Kelly Curran, M.D., an adolescent medicine physician, joined OU in 2014 after they decided they wanted to devote their careers to training the next generation of physicians.

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CDC Director Speaks on Campus

Annual Aesculapian Awards Spotlight Excellent Educators Students in any field of study hold in high regard those teachers who especially inspire and encourage them. That is certainly true in the discipline of medicine. Each spring, College of Medicine students set aside time to honor those who have played a significant role in their four-year educational journey. The Aesculapian Award is given by medical students to faculty and residents for their excellence in teaching medicine. It is named for Aesculapius, identified in Greek myth as the son of Apollo and an ideal physician. Students also honor one of their own with Podalirian Awards, presented to one student in each class on both campuses who exemplifies excellence and compassion. Podalirius was one of Aesculapius’ two sons, both of whom were depicted as physicians in Homer’s “Iliad.”

Robert R. Redfield, M.D., director of the CDC, speaks at the OU Health Sciences Center in March.

Class of 2022: • Aesculapian Award-Preclinical Faculty: Gregory L. Blakey, M.D., Department of Pathology • Podalirian Award: Preston M. Choi

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert R. Redfield, M.D., spoke to faculty, students and staff this spring during a visit to the OU Health Sciences Center. Redfield spoke during the Edward N. Brandt Jr. Memorial Lecture, which was established jointly by the OU Hudson College of Public Health and the OU College of Medicine. He focused on the federal government’s newly announced initiative to end the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years. “We were honored to host CDC Director Redfield for this important annual lecture,” said Gary Raskob, Ph.D., dean of the OU Hudson College of Public Health. “Dr. Redfield has made major contributions to public health during his career, and he continues to make a difference in his role as leader of the CDC.” Redfield is the 18th director of the CDC. He also serves as administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. He has been a public health leader actively engaged in clinical research and clinical care of chronic human viral infections and infectious diseases, especially HIV, for more than 30 years. During his time on campus, Redfield also visited OU Medicine’s HIV Clinic and with leaders from OU Medicine, the state of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City, the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board and other groups.

Class of 2021: • Aesculapian Award-Preclinical Faculty: Bryan L. Billings, M.D., Department of Family Medicine • Podalirian Award: Jennifer H. Nguyen

Class of 2020: • Aesculapian Award-Resident: Emily E. Switzer, M.D., Department of Surgery • Aesculapian Award-Faculty: Devon W. Hahn, M.D., Department of Pediatrics • Podalirian Award: Stephanie M. Lee

Class of 2019: • Aesculapian Award-Faculty: Ryan D. Brown, M.D., Department of Pediatrics •

Aesculapian Award-Volunteer Faculty: Hanna Saadah, M.D., Clinical Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatric Medicine

• Podalirian Award: Neal Walia The 2019 Edgar W. Young Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Kennon Garrett, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology. The award was established in 1987 by the Medical Student Council, in honor of its first recipient, to recognize long-term dedication to medical education.

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OU College of Medicine Honors International Expert in Neuroethics

Harold Hamm Diabetes Center Names New Director

The University of Oklahoma College of Medicine presented its biennial award in biomedical ethics during an event this spring at the OU Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. The award, called the Patricia Price Browne Prize in Biomedical Ethics, is presented to a person who demonstrates high standards in the medical or professional ethics fields. The prize is named for an Oklahoma champion of women’s and children’s health, the late Patricia Price Browne. The honor comes with a $10,000 award. This year’s recipient is Judy Illes, Ph.D., a professor in neurology and neuroethics at the University of British Columbia. She also serves as director of Neuroethics Canada, and is a faculty member at the Centre for Brain Health as well as the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute. Illes gave a lecture titled “Where the Children Lie in the Neuroethics Eye” during the OU College of Medicine’s Pediatric Grand Rounds. The awards presentation followed. “The Patricia Price Browne Prize in Biomedical Ethics recognizes eminent leaders who guide the national discourse regarding the most complicated biomedical issues of our time,” said John Zubialde, M.D., executive dean of the OU College of Medicine. “Dr. Illes is an international leader in the ethics that guide our profession, and we are pleased to honor her and welcome her to campus to speak.” Illes received her doctorate in hearing and speech science and in neuropsychology at Stanford University. She became a pioneer in the field of neuroethics that was formally established in the early 2000s. Her research, teaching and outreach initiatives are devoted to ethical, legal, social and policy challenges at the intersection of the brain sciences and biomedical ethics. She has made groundbreaking contributions to neuroethical thinking for neuroscience discovery and clinical translation, specifically in the areas of neurodevelopment, neurodegeneration, brain and spinal cord injury, and more broadly to entrepreneurship in biomedicine and the commercialization of healthcare. She is past president of the International Neuroethics Society and is a prolific writer, including her latest book, “Developments in Neuroethics and Bioethics.” During her time at the OU Health Sciences Center, Illes also visited with faculty, residents and students to discuss ethics in medicine.


Jed Friedman, Ph.D.

Jacob E. “Jed” Friedman, Ph.D., has been named director of Harold Hamm Diabetes Center at OU Medicine and associate vice provost for diabetes programs at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Friedman comes to Harold Hamm Diabetes Center from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where he served as the director of the Colorado Program in Nutrition and Healthy Development and director of the National Institutes of Health Nutrition and Obesity Research Center laboratories for cellular and molecular metabolism. He was also a professor in pediatrics, biochemistry and molecular genetics, and medicine. Friedman has earned numerous National Institutes of Health and industry funding awards, as well as a Gates Grand Challenge grant. He has more than 134 peer-reviewed articles to his credit and has been selected for publication in such prestigious journals as the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature Communications, and Diabetes. Friedman has led teams of researchers working in both basic and translational research areas. He is the lead investigator on numerous multi-principal investigator team science grants, and is involved with several clinical trials based on his basic science work. He was awarded the 2014 American Diabetes Association Norbert Freinkel Award, the highest award given for lifetime achievement in advancing the science and clinical care for diabetes in pregnancy. “My vision for the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center is a focus on the emerging science of the developmental origins of diabetes and obesity identified in the first 1,000 days of life,”

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Friedman said. “Research has established that a variety of adverse events in early developmental phases lead to lifelong metabolic problems.” Friedman’s research will involve studies on metabolism, mitochondrial malfunction, microbiome and epigenetics, and he will advance clinical and translational research in women with gestational diabetes and their infants to halt the growing trend for obesity and diabetes in the next generation.

Humphrey Named Associate Dean of Research

Physician and researcher Mary Beth Humphrey, M.D., Ph.D., has been named Associate Dean of Research for the college.

In her role as Associate Dean of Research, Humphrey said she looks forward to working with researchers from all areas of the college who are dedicated to deciphering the mysteries of human disease. “With the recent generous gift by Harold Hamm to promote diabetes research, the recent NCI designation of the Stephenson Cancer Center promoting clinical trials, translational and basic studies on cancer, and the growth of large, patient-centered outcomes research such as Healthy Hearts for Oklahoma, we have a unique opportunity to significantly grow research on campus to improve the lives of Oklahomans,” Humphrey said. “As an M.D./Ph.D. who sees patients and runs an NIH-funded lab, I will work to bridge our clinicians with our researchers to explore clinically meaningful research as we continue to recruit and train cutting-edge researchers and clinical scientists to our campus.”

Trauma Surgeon, Student Contribute to Study on Preventing Stroke After Blunt Traumatic Injury

Professor of Medicine Mary Beth Humphrey, M.D., Ph.D., has been named Associate Dean of Research for the OU College of Medicine. Humphrey brings a wealth of experience in both patient care and basic science research to the leadership position. She is chief of the Section of Rheumatology in the Department of Medicine and holds the McEldowney Chair in Immunology. She also holds adjunct professor positions with the Department of Cell Biology and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

Amanda Celii, M.D., and Tyler Zander

In addition to treating patients with rheumatologic disease, Humphrey leads an active basic science laboratory. The overarching focus of her lab is to understand the role of myeloid cells in human diseases, including osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, and Alzheimer’s disease.

An OU Medicine trauma surgeon and an OU College of Medicine student were among the leaders of a national research study that established new guidelines for preventing strokes in patients who have suffered a blunt traumatic injury to their necks.

Humphrey joined the OU College of Medicine in 2006. She earned a doctorate in cell biology and her medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine. She completed her residency and a rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco.

Amanda Celii, M.D., and medical student Tyler Zander were authors on the study, which was published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery. The study focused on blunt cerebrovascular injury – an injury to the blood vessels in the neck. Unlike a penetrating injury such as a gunshot or stab

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wound, blunt cerebrovascular injuries (BCVIs) can be caused by the force of a seat belt during a car accident or a fracture in the neck, for example.

concerning surgery protocols. The process of clinical research especially interests him as he progresses in his journey toward becoming a physician.

“Essentially, BCVIs occur when the blood vessels are injured or bruised in a way that clots can form, which can cause a stroke,” said Celii, an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery.

“I have an interest in what we do and why we do it, looking at our protocols, and gathering information that leads to the best practices,” he said. “This study is a good example of how we can conduct studies to improve medicine.”

The purpose of the study was, in part, to determine how soon strokes occur after an injury to the blood vessels and how soon blood thinners should be given in an effort to prevent stroke. Trauma centers across the country have treated patients in slightly different ways, so the study was conducted in order for care to be standardized, Celii said. OU Medicine contributed its patient data concerning BCVIs to the study, which included more than 30 such institutions around the country. The study results showed that the majority of patients who suffer a BCVI-related stroke do so in the first 72 hours after the injury occurs. That means blood thinners – often aspirin – should be given to the patient immediately, Celii said.

Stephenson Cancer Center Physician Honored for National Advocacy Work on Behalf of Patients

The study also answered a related question concerning patients who have injuries in addition to a BCVI, which is often the case. In a patient who also has a complex pelvic fracture, for example, the concern was that blood thinners would increase the risk of bleeding. However, the study showed that the risk of stroke within 72 hours outweighed the risks of giving the blood thinner. “Because of how early the strokes can occur, the data showed us that starting blood thinners early is important,” Celii said. “Because of the results of the study, we will be rewriting our protocols for how we treat patients with BCVIs.” The study was also an important experience for Zander, who is now in the hospital wards for his clinical rotations. Zander has wanted a career in surgery since he was young, but an experience in high school solidified his determination to go to medical school. In the summer before his senior year in Enid, Zander was working at a grain elevator to earn extra money. A friend working with him got his leg caught in an auger, and when Zander tried to help, his leg became caught as well. He was taken to OU Medicine, where his leg had to be amputated and he spent more than two months in the hospital undergoing numerous surgeries. He maintained relationships with the surgeons who saved his life. Receiving author credit on a research publication is unusual for a medical student, but Zander has a particular drive, Celii said. When students are part of that process and develop mentors with faculty members, they tend to learn the intricacies of surgery better, she said. Zander has already worked on eight studies at OU Medicine


Lisa Landrum, M.D., Ph.D., receives the Ambassador Award from the Society of Gynecologic Oncology.

Lisa Landrum, M.D., Ph.D., a physician at the Stephenson Cancer Center at OU Medicine, was recently honored for her national advocacy work on behalf of her patients with gynecologic cancers. Landrum was presented the Ambassador Award from the Society of Gynecologic Oncology. As one of two winners across the United States, Landrum was recognized for educating Oklahoma’s congressional delegation about several issues of great importance to women who are fighting gynecologic cancers and the physicians who treat them. Landrum’s efforts began with a “Legislative Fly-In” organized by the Society of Gynecologic Oncology. Landrum joined her colleagues from around the nation in educating their congressional leaders and staff about several timely concerns. One was to encourage Oklahoma’s members of Congress to sponsor requests for more federal funding for gynecologic cancer clinical trials. In Oklahoma, gynecologic cancers affect a large number of women, and ovarian cancer is particularly difficult to treat.

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“We have made some strides through clinical trials treatment, but we have a lot of room for improvement,” Landrum said. “Most people with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at Stage 3, and 75 to 80 percent of them will recur. Those are the people who will ultimately die from their disease. Because that’s the case, clinical trials must be a priority.”

OU College of Medicine Professor Named Fellow of Science Organization

Landrum also educated congressional members about a pending guideline within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Called “step therapy,” it is problematic for patients, especially those fighting cancer, she said. The plan would require doctors to prescribe the least expensive drugs first, then prove patients had failed those therapies before advancing to a different, more expensive drug that is known to be more effective.

Lawrence Rothblum, Ph.D., a professor of cell biology at the OU College of Medicine, has been elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“For example, I would be required to use cheaper anti-nausea medication first, knowing it would fail for my patients,” she said. “I understand that cost is a concern, but physicians have a significant amount of knowledge about which drugs a patient needs to manage nausea while undergoing specific chemotherapies. It’s cruel to make a patient take a less-effective drug. For some patients, their experience with chemo and nausea is so bad that they’re unwilling to even try again. That’s the kind of situations we risk encountering if physicians aren’t allowed to make the best choices for their patients.” After Landrum visited with leaders on Capitol Hill, one congressman followed up by sending a staff member to visit the Stephenson Cancer Center to learn more firsthand and ask for ways his office could help. Landrum and others at the Stephenson had the opportunity to show how clinical trials can provide lifesaving care to cancer patients.

Rothblum is being recognized for his contributions to the field of cell biology. His research focuses on the mechanism of transcription by RNA polymerase I. RNA polymerase is an enzyme found in all living organisms. Its function is to copy a DNA sequence into an RNA sequence during the process of transcription. By understanding the mechanism of transcription, Rothblum’s research aims to provide the basis for understanding its regulation and a way to inhibit it when it becomes pathological. Rothblum has published more than 100 articles in peerreviewed journals about his research. He also served in an administrative capacity for the Department of Cell Biology as chairman from 2007 to 2018. He was inducted as a fellow Feb. 16 in Washington, D.C., during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The organization elects fellows each year in recognition of their distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

The experience underscores the importance of physicians communicating with policymakers about the needs of patients in their home states. “As physicians, we can talk to our patients about clinical trials, but we can’t do that unless those opportunities are there, which often starts with funding,” she said. “This was an opportunity to educate our legislators and ask for their help in our areas of focus.” Joan Walker, M.D., another gynecologic oncologist at Stephenson Cancer Center, said Landrum’s advocacy represents her dedication to her patients. “Dr. Landrum strives to do everything she can for each patient she treats,” Walker said. “Her willingness to travel to Washington, D.C., and then have ongoing conversations with our leaders shows she is willing to go the extra mile to advocate for her patients. Physicians need to have a voice at the federal level, and we’re grateful for her work on behalf of Oklahomans.”

Lawrence Rothblum, Ph.D.

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Oklahoma Center on Aging, the research division of the Department of Geriatric Medicine. With support from the Reynolds Foundation, Sonntag began recruiting researchers whose studies were pertinent to aging and disease. His team is now a highly collaborative, interdisciplinary group with expertise in a variety of areas.

A new federal grant will further geroscience research on campus, including studies in the Translational Geroscience Laboratory.

OU College of Medicine Receives $10.7 Million Grant For Geroscience Research To advance research in the field of geroscience – which studies the relationship between aging and disease – the OU College of Medicine has been awarded a $10.7 million federal grant. The grant brings national recognition to geroscience research at the OU College of Medicine. Simply getting older puts people at higher risk for a multitude of diseases, from cancer to Alzheimer’s to cardiovascular problems. Although aging itself isn’t an illness, researchers want to understand how it influences disease in order to delay or prevent the devastating conditions that many people face. “This grant highlights the significant momentum by researchers studying geroscience,” said Jason Sanders, M.D., MBA, senior vice president and provost of the OU Health Sciences Center and vice chair of OU Medicine. “Research distinguishes an academic health system like OU Medicine because new discoveries will enhance and personalize the care that Oklahomans receive for a number of diseases linked to aging.” The five-year grant is from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a component of the National Institutes of Health. It represents a COBRE (Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence) grant, which establishes multidisciplinary research in Oklahoma and enables talented researchers to compete for additional federal awards. A major component of the program is mentoring junior researchers, who contribute to better patient treatment with their projects, while building their careers and attracting additional grant funding that helps to drive Oklahoma’s economic growth. Geroscience research at the OU College of Medicine has grown significantly in recent years. In 2007, William E. Sonntag, Ph.D., arrived on campus to launch and lead the Reynolds


“Over the past several years, we have recognized that more than 95 percent of debilitating diseases are associated with age,” said Sonntag, who serves as co-principal investigator on the grant with Robert Anderson, Ph.D. “If we can understand the cellular changes that put cells and tissues at risk, that can go a long way toward understanding the cause of disease. This is a transformational approach to treating and managing disease, and we are a leader in this emerging field.” Building a solid foundation of basic science research is an important first step toward translating it into treatments for patients. Cerebrovascular problems associated with aging are a major investigative theme for the research group. For example, modest hypertension in young people, while not desirable, doesn’t create immediate pathological changes. In older people, however, hypertension can cause a breakdown of the structure of blood vessels in the brain, potentially leading to stroke or impairments in learning and memory, Sonntag said. Researchers have already begun building the bridge between laboratory science and patient care through the establishment of the Translational Geroscience Laboratory on campus. The facility allows physicians and scientists to use technology such as functional near-infrared spectroscopy to view blood vessels in the brain, ultrasound to evaluate vascular health, and a high-tech walking mat to measure a person’s gait, which often changes because of an underlying microvascular disease. By its nature, geroscience research engages with scientists from other disciplines and organizations in Oklahoma, including the VA Medical Center, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and the School of Biomedical Engineering on OU’s Norman campus. These collaborations were instrumental in the establishment three years ago of Oklahoma’s first Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging, a distinction that came with a $3.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The geroscience COBRE award will allow researchers to continue building on that success. Four junior researchers will be mentored toward independent careers by established researchers on campus, while simultaneously conducting research that contributes to the knowledge base of geroscience. Three of the junior researchers are from the College of Medicine and one is from the College of Pharmacy, and their strength is in the diversity of their investigations.

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Department of Dermatology Focuses on Skin of Color With Annual Symposium

“As a faculty member and a person of color, it has been a goal of mine to develop a Skin of Color Symposium for our department.”

will be seeing a lot more people of color in our practices.”

Pamela Allen, M.D.

To promote awareness and understanding about the specific skin considerations for people of color, the Department of Dermatology at the OU College of Medicine held its second annual Skin of Color Symposium this spring. The event was April 5 at the OU-Tulsa Schusterman Center. It coincided with the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery Society. Although the symposium is geared toward practicing dermatologists, mid-level providers, medical students and residents, it was open to any health professional or person who works with the skin and hair of people of color, including hairstylists and aestheticians. The Skin of Color Symposium was founded by dermatologist Pamela Allen, M.D., an associate professor in the Department of Dermatology and secretary/treasurer of the Oklahoma Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery Society. “As a faculty member and a person of color, it has been a goal of mine to develop a Skin of Color Symposium for our department,” Allen said. “According to statistics, by 2050 our patient population in the United States will be about 50 percent non-white. That is important in the field of dermatology because of the special skin, hair and nail considerations we need to understand, knowing that we

Speakers at the symposium included Department of Dermatology faculty and other nationally recognized experts from across the country. They covered a variety of topics, including cosmetic considerations and procedural complications. It’s a myth that people of color don’t need sunscreen and don’t get skin cancer, Allen said. Cancers such as melanoma and basal cell carcinoma are diagnosed in people of all ethnicities and skin tones. The event also included a presentation on hidradenitis suppurativa, a chronic skin disease with a higher prevalence in patients with skin of color, particularly African-Americans and Hispanics. A portion of the symposium was devoted to ethnic hairstyles and how some hair practices can lead to damage and hair loss. Allen also provided a historical overview of ethnic hair, covering the time before, during and after slavery. “It’s important to educate our physicians and trainees to be able to confidently and competently interview a patient of color, including issues related to hairstyles and hair care products,” Allen said. Larger coastal cities hold skin of color educational events, but Oklahoma’s is the first of its kind in the central United States, a location that should draw regional physicians. The symposium also fits with the mission of the Department of Dermatology. “As part of an academic health center, we seek to be a leader in educating private-practice physicians and the general public on skin of color issues, as well as conducting research and serving as a resource for referrals,” said Thomas Stasko, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Dermatology. “Together, these activities will help us to educate the next generation of dermatologists to be comfortable and competent in treating people of color.”

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Researcher Daniel J. Drucker, M.D., will receive the 2019 Harold Hamm International Prize for Biomedical Research in Diabetes during a ceremony this fall.

Diabetes Researcher Named 2019 Hamm Prize Laureate An internationally renowned diabetes researcher whose discoveries led to the development of two new treatments for Type 2 diabetes will be honored with the 2019 Harold Hamm International Prize for Biomedical Research in Diabetes. Daniel J. Drucker, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, has been chosen as the 2019 Hamm Prize Laureate. The honor comes with a $250,000 award – the largest of its kind in the world – and will be awarded this fall by Harold Hamm Diabetes Center at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. The Hamm Prize recognizes and encourages lasting advances in the field of diabetes research. It is awarded to an individual who has either demonstrated lifelong contributions to the field or realized a singular advance, especially in leading toward a cure. “My hope in awarding this unprecedented international research prize is that we would ignite worldwide scientific interest and innovation to find a cure for diabetes in this generation,” said Harold Hamm, chairman and CEO of Continental Resources Inc., headquartered in Oklahoma City. Hamm provided the endowment to establish the prize, following his lead gift in 2007 for the establishment of Harold Hamm Diabetes Center. His endowment of the prize provides for its awarding every other year in perpetuity. This endowment represents a unique private/public partnership using philanthropic dollars as a catalyst for desperately needed medical advances, which is especially beneficial in


the current environment marked by declining federal funding for medical research. Drucker’s pioneering diabetes research has focused on a group of hormones called incretins, which help the pancreas produce insulin to use the energy it receives from food. When working properly, incretins help the body to control blood glucose and insulin secretion, regulate appetite, control the absorption of nutrients from food and convert those nutrients to energy. However, in Type 2 diabetes, an incretin called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) is in short supply or is affected by a protein that makes it inactive. Drucker’s laboratory uncovered the pathways that led to the development of two drug therapies that mimic and enhance GLP-1 so it can work naturally. “Dr. Drucker’s discoveries have been revolutionary in diabetes research,” said Jacob E. “Jed” Friedman, Ph.D., director of Harold Hamm Diabetes Center. “His dedication to this field has resulted in new treatments for millions of people around the world.” Drucker began his career as a clinical endocrinologist but decided to focus on research when he recognized its potential to improve lives. He is a senior researcher at the Lunefeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. Drucker was chosen for the prize by an international jury of diabetes scientists who met in Oklahoma in April. Jury

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members are: George L. King, M.D., Harvard Medical School; Bruce A. Buckingham, M.D., Stanford University; Bernard Thorens, Ph.D., University of Lausanne, Switzerland; Jay S. Skyler, M.D., University of Miami; and Steven E. Kahn, M.B., Ch.B., University of Washington. Skyler, who has known Drucker for many years, said he is driven not only to understand the basic biology of the body’s state during Type 2 diabetes, but to translate his discoveries into new therapies. Drucker is someone who is “totally dedicated to getting the correct answers and doing science the right way,” Skyler said. “He is tenacious, and he has added more to our knowledge of this general space than anyone,” Skyler said. “He is truly an outstanding recipient of the Hamm Prize.” Drucker’s discoveries in the research laboratory are unique in that they have already been transformed into therapies to help patients with Type 2 diabetes live healthier and happier lives, Kahn said. “From my perspective, Dan’s legacy is already here,” Kahn said. “The question is, ‘How much bigger will it get?’” The 2019 Harold Hamm International Prize for Biomedical Research in Diabetes will be presented to Drucker during a ceremony Oct. 22 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

OU Medicine Named Member of National HLHS Consortium

For its surgeons’ expertise in treating babies born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, OU Medicine has earned membership in the national HLHS Consortium. The achievement was led by OU Medicine pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Harold Burkhart, M.D., who is leading a clinical trial studying a promising new treatment for babies born with the heart defect. OU Medicine’s success with the treatment led to membership in the consortium – a network of institutions across the United States that specialize in treating HLHS. “We are excited about joining the HLHS Consortium because it establishes OU Medicine as a site where families can receive the latest research-based treatment for their children who are born with HLHS. We will serve as a regional center for families to receive care closer to home,” said Burkhart, a professor of surgery in the OU College of Medicine. Babies with hypoplastic left heart syndrome are usually diagnosed in utero. In HLHS, the left ventricle is significantly underdeveloped, and the heart can’t pump sufficient blood through the body. A set of three surgeries, conducted from birth through about age 2, stabilizes infants for the short term, but until now, surgeons have not had a long-term option for strengthening a baby’s heart. In the clinical trial, Burkhart and his team study the effects of injecting the baby’s own umbilical cord blood cells into the heart muscle in the hopes that it will cause the muscle to strengthen and multiply. The treatment is an example of cutting-edge regenerative medicine. “Families of children with heart anomalies want to know that we’re not just resting where we are. We need to keep pushing forward to come up with newer treatments,” Burkhart said. “This trial is exciting because it is showing good results, and it is the epitome of a bench-to-bedside research project.” Many different health care providers play a big role in the care of babies with HLHS, from the intensive care team and cardiologists to researchers and other cardiothoracic surgeons at OU Medicine, including Jess L. Thompson, M.D. The entire team is gratified to be playing a role in the development of a potential new treatment for HLHS. Babies are resilient, Burkhart said, and the regenerative capabilities of their tiny hearts may yield enormous results.

OU Medicine’s cardiothoracic surgeons provide the latest research-based treatment for children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

“The beauty of working with babies is that their hearts are so adaptable. They’re ready to change, based on what’s taking place from a stimulus standpoint at the cellular level,” he said. “That’s one of the things that made us think about injecting umbilical cord blood cells – these babies’ hearts can respond and adapt much more so than adult hearts. So let’s inject the cells early rather than waiting until they show signs of heart failure or to trying to reverse the process when they’re older. It’s an incredible possibility for babies.”

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Study Shows Dementia Care Model Delays Nursing Home Admissions, Reduces Medicare Costs

“The most striking finding was that patients enrolled in the program reduced their risk of entering a nursing home by about 40 percent.” plan that addresses the medical, mental health and social needs of both people. The nurse practitioners work collaboratively with the patient’s primary care provider and specialist physicians to implement the care plan, including adjustments as needs change over time. A total of 1,083 Medicare beneficiaries with dementia were enrolled in the program and were followed for three years. The study compared them to a similar group of patients living in the same ZIP codes who did not participate in the program.

Lee Jennings, M.D.

A new research study co-authored by an OU College of Medicine physician shows that a comprehensive, coordinated care program for people with dementia and their caregivers significantly decreased the likelihood that the patients would enter a nursing home. The study also shows that the program saved Medicare money and was cost-neutral after accounting for program costs. The research, conducted at the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program, was designed to evaluate the costs of administering the program, as well as the healthcare services used by program participants, including hospitalizations, emergency room visits, hospital readmissions and long-term nursing home placement. “The most striking finding was that patients enrolled in the program reduced their risk of entering a nursing home by about 40 percent,” said lead author Lee Jennings, M.D., assistant professor of geriatrics at the OU College of Medicine. Jennings began the project while on faculty at the Geffen School at UCLA and finished it after arriving at OU. The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The research focused on the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program. In the program, people with dementia and their caregivers meet with a nurse practitioner specializing in dementia care for a 90-minute in-person assessment and then receive a personalized dementia care


There were no differences between the two study groups in hospitalizations, emergency room visits or hospital readmissions. However, cost was another important element of the study. Participants in the program saved Medicare $601 per patient, per quarter, for a total of $2,404 a year. However, after program costs were factored in, the program was cost-neutral and might result in savings in other healthcare systems. That was good news to the study’s authors. Jennings added that individuals with dementia typically have not received good-quality care. “Part of the reason,” she said, “is that the care takes a significant amount of time, which primary care physicians don’t have in abundance. In addition, pharmacologic treatments for dementia are limited, which makes community resources all the more important for both patients and caregivers. However, community programs tend to be underutilized.” The intervention featured in the study addresses those issues directly. The assessment looks not only at what the patient and caregiver need, but also at their strengths, such as financial security, family assistance and proximity to community resources. It is designed to be interdisciplinary and to address the needs of both patients and caregivers. “This study aligns with similar studies of collaborative care models for other chronic diseases, such as heart failure,” Jennings said. “It underscores that we need to be thinking differently about how we provide care to persons with chronic illnesses, like dementia. This study shows the benefit of a collaborative care model, where nurse practitioners and physicians work together to provide comprehensive dementia care.”

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Orthopedic Surgery Department Chair Elected President of North American Organization

“This year, we’ve been talking to Congress about the need for continued funding for wounded warriors and research-related gaps in our understanding of how to help them improve.” “We’re trying to make that process more straightforward so that, if Oklahoma has another F-5 tornado, then we have a mechanism in place for our colleagues from Dallas to be on a pre-cleared list so they can come help if we need it,” he said. “States need to have a plan in place so they don’t have to address it in the aftermath of a horrible event.” Under Teague’s leadership, the OTA has established an “association of associations” called IOTA, the International Orthopaedic Trauma Association. The OTA joins about 16 similar groups from around the world to promote trauma education and resources. As a global group, they meet every three years.

David C. Teague, M.D.

OU Medicine orthopedic surgeon David C. Teague, M.D., is serving as president of the Orthopaedic Trauma Association, an organization that advances research, education and patient care for orthopedic trauma surgeons in the United States and Canada. At OU Medicine, Teague treats injured patients at the Level 1 Trauma Center, Oklahoma’s only comprehensive trauma facility, and in the post-trauma reconstructive setting. He also serves as professor and chairman of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Rehabilitation in the OU College of Medicine, helping to train the orthopedic surgeons of tomorrow. Teague brings that experience to the Orthopaedic Trauma Association, which has 2,500 members, including about 350 members from Europe, South America and Asia. “The Orthopaedic Trauma Association is a wonderful story of collaboration,” Teague said. “Our founding members were visionaries who established an organization dedicated to supporting the field and nurturing young orthopedic trauma surgeons in their research and clinical careers.” One of Teague’s initiatives while president of OTA is improving the process for orthopedic trauma surgeons to cross state lines to help their colleagues in the aftermath of a disaster. Because of states’ differing credentialing, licensing and liability laws, it is difficult for surgeons to travel to other states and help in the wake of a tornado, for example, Teague said.

For its research focus, the OTA awards $750,000 a year to surgeons and residents to conduct research that moves the field forward. Those grants have been leveraged to attract millions of dollars in extramural funding from the National Institutes of Health and other organizations. Teague also recently represented OTA and OU Medicine at the Extremity War Symposium in Washington, D.C. Along with similar groups, the OTA is taking on an advocacy role on behalf of military veterans, who face distinct injuries from their time on the battlefield. “This year, we’ve been talking to Congress about the need for continued funding for wounded warriors and research-related gaps in our understanding of how to help them improve,” he said. The OTA also oversees orthopedic trauma fellowship programs around the United States, working with the American College of Surgeons to verify that each program is offering quality education and training. Orthopedic trauma surgery is a challenging yet gratifying subspecialty of medicine, Teague said, because no surgery is ever the same and surgeons must expect the unexpected. Teague said he is thankful for the opportunity to represent the field and work toward improved treatments for patients. “I’m fortunate to be engaged in national and international trauma work,” he said. “It speaks to the level of support from the OU College of Medicine, the OU Medical Center and especially from my partners in the department.”

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Diversity among students, faculty and staff is among the aims of the college’s new Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement.

Diversity Program to Create Pathways to Medical School In America, healthcare disparities remain startling: A person’s ZIP code, the color of their skin or their sexual orientation sometimes means that their health outcomes are worse and their lives are shorter. However, there is good data to suggest that medical students who come from rural and medically underserved communities tend to return to their roots to practice medicine and make a difference in areas where they are needed the most. This year the OU College of Medicine created the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement (ODICE) to develop talent and create pathways to medical school for students from under-represented groups. They’re doing so by forging long-lasting relationships with young people across Oklahoma, working with them over time from the moment they first dream of becoming a doctor. “It’s hard for young people from rural or disadvantaged backgrounds to imagine that they can be a doctor when they don’t see anyone who looks like them or have access to someone who can help mentor them,” said Roberto Salinas, M.D., assistant dean for diversity. “For many, they are the first in their family to go to college and often lack the academic readiness for the rigorous premedical curriculum and medical school entrance exam that awaits them. Thus, we have to start


much earlier and start a conversation with students and their parents to better prepare them and create pathways to help guide them.” In middle school, students begin to cultivate their interest in science and math. Traditionally, however, many of those students have “leaked” out of pipeline programs if the curriculum is too rigid or if they don’t have mentors. ODICE aims to engage students through various partnerships, including tribes and area high schools, to not only tell students that it’s possible to become a doctor, but to give them a road map for getting there. “It’s nothing more than equity — giving every student the same opportunity to develop those academic skills to become better-qualified applicants to medical school,” Salinas said. “If students are willing to put in the hard work, are committed and remain steadfast in their pursuit of their dream, then we have an obligation as an institution of higher learning to create opportunities to help better their academic readiness.” Candice Teets, who works with Salinas as coordinator for student diversity, has been making partnerships with Oklahoma organizations since she began in January. The College of Medicine is hosting a STEAM Camp – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math – with the Comanche

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“Excellence in inclusion could help us recruit more talented students and faculty from diverse backgrounds, and I am convinced that this will serve to enrich our learning environment.” Nation. On National Doctor’s Day, several doctors visited area schools to talk to students about their journey to becoming a physician. Many more such relationships are in the works, and existing programs will continue, such as Spark Camp on the Oklahoma City campus and Club Scrubs on the Tulsa campus, both of which give students hands-on experiences with OU physicians. In addition, several OU medical students who grew up in small towns across Oklahoma have returned to their rural roots with information and conversation about going to medical school. “When students see the success of a physician who was in

similar places where they are now – being the first from their family to go to college, being part of a minority group, being from a low socioeconomic group – they can see a person who has overcome the same challenges that they have. That really inspires kids,” Teets said. ODICE also is working toward building a more inclusive environment for student, faculty and staff. Faculty and medical student diversity councils have been formed, an LGBT group, called Lumina, is underway, and training on unconscious bias will be provided. As he looks toward the future, Salinas sees a more diverse student body who will help eliminate the disparities that affect health. “Excellence in inclusion could help us recruit more talented students and faculty from diverse backgrounds, and I am convinced that this will serve to enrich our learning environment,” Salinas said. “We are in the business of training the next generation of physicians who will provide healthcare for a changing demographic, and we need to continue to recruit trainees who reflect the population that they will ultimately serve. A diverse student body also adds different perspectives, which fosters new ideas on how best to address the complex healthcare needs of communities.”

Assistant Dean for Diversity Roberto Salinas, M.D., and Candice Teets lead the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement.

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John P. Zubialde, M.D., was named executive dean of the OU College of Medicine this spring.

Zubialde Named Executive Dean of OU College of Medicine John P. Zubialde, M.D., a family medicine physician and longtime academic medicine leader, has been named executive dean of the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. The OU Board of Regents approved Zubialde for the position at its May 10 meeting. Zubialde has been serving as interim executive dean since July 2018, providing leadership during a period of transformation for the college and campus. “Dr. Zubialde is a leader among leaders,” said Jason R. Sanders, M.D., MBA, senior vice president and provost of the OU Health Sciences Center. “He is a proven leader for the OU College of Medicine and is well-respected among colleagues at the OU Health Sciences Center and OU Medicine.”


Zubialde joined the OU College of Medicine in 1991 and is a professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. He served as program director of the Family Medicine Residency Program from 1994 to 2000, guiding new physicians through the next stage of their training. Zubialde was next promoted to associate dean for Graduate Medical Education, during which time he oversaw all residency programs for the OU College of Medicine. In 2015, he was promoted to senior associate dean and, for nearly a year, has been serving as interim executive dean. Zubialde has received multiple grants, authored numerous publications and has conducted presentations at national

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and international meetings on topics ranging from medical education to health systems planning to leadership development. For his work in helping pioneer fundamental principles for the care of patients with chronic illness, he was appointed adjunct professor at Dartmouth Medical School. He is a member of the OU College of Medicine Academy of Teaching Scholars and received the group’s M. Dewayne Andrews Excellence in Teaching Award. Zubialde is active in state and community service. He serves Oklahoma as a member of the Health Workforce Subcommittee of the Governor’s Council on Workforce and Economic Development. He has served nationally on a number of humanitarian organizations, and at the local level has been a 25-year volunteer at the Good Shepherd Clinic, a program that serves the city’s underserved patient population. For his longtime commitment to humanitarian service, in 2008, he was presented with the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. He is a member of national and state professional organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians and the Oklahoma State Medical Association. His professional interests focus on educational program development, leadership development, care for the chronically ill adult, and health care administration and policy. Zubialde completed both his medical degree and residency in family medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. After residency he served in the United States Air Force, attaining the rank of major and serving as chief of Family Medicine Services at the U.S. Air Force Clinic and Hospital at Tinker Air Force Base. He received the Air Force Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service. Zubialde will lead the OU College of Medicine across all of its missions, including training the next generation of physicians, advancing new research and treatments, and guiding the work of OU Physicians, the state’s largest group practice. He will continue to work with leadership and faculty across the College of Medicine, both on the Oklahoma City campus and the regional School of Community Medicine campus in Tulsa.  He also looks forward to continuing the college’s long-term partnership in caring for America’s veterans with the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center. Zubialde also will serve on the board of directors for OU Medicine Inc. Since February 2018, OU Medicine has been a locally owned and operated nonprofit health system, marking a closer working relationship between the OU Health Sciences Center and the clinical enterprise. “John Zubialde is a proven, trusted and dedicated physician leader. I am very excited about his appointment to this role

“John Zubialde is a proven, trusted and dedicated physician leader. I am very excited about his appointment to this role and know that he is the perfect choice during this time of healthcare transformation at OU Medicine.” and know that he is the perfect choice during this time of healthcare transformation at OU Medicine,” said Chuck Spicer, CEO of OU Medicine. Zubialde brings a deep understanding of the academic health enterprise, and he will play a key role in the ongoing growth and transformation of Oklahoma’s comprehensive academic health system, said Spicer. About the appointment, Zubialde said: “I am truly honored to have this opportunity to lead such an outstanding group of faculty and staff in our missions because Oklahomans deserve the best in healthcare. OU Medicine is committed to helping the people of Oklahoma have exactly that. We can achieve this through the efforts of our dedicated care providers, educators that are training the next generation of providers, and our researchers who are discovering innovations that advance both healthcare and medical education.”

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It’s a Match! During Match Day 2019, OU College of Medicine students learned where they will go for their residencies. Students from both the Oklahoma City and Tulsa campuses matched with residency programs around the nation.


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“Our surgeons could always go in and remove a bigger area of the brain around the tumor, but it would cause patients lots of problems,” said James D. Battiste, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program at Stephenson Cancer Center. “Because a big part of her career involves speaking and language, we wanted to preserve that functioning. In brain tumors, that’s always the trade-off. We want to treat the patients as aggressively as possible, but we also don’t want to take too much brain because then they couldn’t function. What good is it if you’re cured but not functioning?” Claudia Cavallin poses next to the radiation mask she wore during treatments for brain cancer. She keeps it on her wall as a symbol of her survival.

Clinical Trial Patient Looks Toward Future After Brain Cancer Treatment When Claudia Cavallin was diagnosed with a brain tumor three years ago, the Stephenson Cancer Center at OU Medicine not only provided lifesaving surgery and clinical trial treatment, but it became a home away from home. Cavallin is a doctoral student at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, where she, her husband and two children moved in 2015 from their native Venezuela. Cavallin was excited about the move and for her family to learn a new language and culture. But she also was having constant headaches. “Good things were happening – I love OU and was making friends, but my headaches were still happening,” she said. “I thought maybe they were because of the weather – we don’t have winter in Venezuela – or because I was so busy and needed to rest.” One evening when she came home after class, Cavallin had a seizure, an event she doesn’t remember. Her family called 911 and the search for a cause began. After an MRI revealed the tumor, she was referred to Stephenson Cancer Center. Brain tumors have four grades, with grade four being the most aggressive type of cancer. Cavallin was diagnosed with a grade II glioma. It was located in the area of her brain where language and memory functions take place. She told her treatment team how important it was for her to retain all the abilities necessary for her work – reading, teaching, speaking different languages and translating. They opted for awake brain surgery, during which Cavallin interacted with the surgical team. They asked her questions about language, colors and mathematics to ensure her brain function was intact – all while the surgeon was removing the tumor.

Since her successful surgery, Battiste has led Cavallin’s treatment, which involved radiation and chemotherapy. She opted to go on a National Cancer Institute-sponsored clinical trial that compares two different protocols for effectiveness and amount of complications and side effects. One protocol involved radiation plus a cocktail of three drugs that have been around longer but are harsh for the patient’s bone marrow and are partly given through an IV. The other protocol involved radiation plus a newer drug that is less harmful to bone marrow and can be given in pill form. The clinical trial, which is being conducted across the nation, is still ongoing. Cavallin endured her radiation and chemotherapy well, with manageable side effects. She returns to Stephenson Cancer Center every four months for an MRI. Her checkups are like reuniting with family – the physicians, nurses and staff who have answered every question, reassured her and her family, and played her favorite music while she was in the MRI machine. Cavallin said she intentionally arrives at her appointments a little early, for a sentimental reason. “Sometimes I miss my family because I left them in Venezuela, and it’s not such a good situation there right now,” she said. “But my father plays the piano, and in the lobby of the cancer center, there is a piano playing all the time. And it plays many of the same songs my dad used to play for me, so it helps me make a connection to him. I like to wait for my appointment because I can drink a coffee and listen to the piano. It’s not a sad place where you think about sad things. I’m going to a beautiful place where I have friends. That’s another kind of medicine for me.” Cavallin also has resumed her busy schedule. She is working toward her doctorate in the Department of Modern Languages Literatures and Linguistics. She also works as a graduate teaching assistant and writes for Latin American Literature Today, an affiliate of OU’s renowned World Literature Today publication. In the future, she plans to teach. She also calls herself a cancer survivor. As a clinical trial participant, she not only received cutting-edge treatment, but she contributed to research that will improve the lives of other patients for years to come. “Patients like Claudia are the heroes,” Battiste said. “They’re the ones who have so much courage.”

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Robert Mannel, M.D., announces a major federal grant that will expand clinical trials at the Stephenson Cancer Center.

Stephenson Cancer Center Awarded $10.8 Million Grant from National Cancer Institute to Expand Clinical Trials The Stephenson Cancer Center at OU Medicine announced that it has been awarded a $10.8 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to expand its nationally recognized clinical trials program. The co-principal investigators for the grant are Kathleen Moore, M.D., Virginia Kerley Cade Endowed Chair in Cancer Developmental Therapeutics and Associate Director for Clinical Research at the Stephenson Cancer Center, and Joan Walker, M.D., Louise and Clay Bennett Endowed Chair in Cancer and Professor and Chief, Section of Gynecologic Oncology, at the OU College of Medicine.


For the past two years, the Stephenson Cancer Center has ranked No. 1 among all cancer centers in the nation for the number of patients participating in clinical trials sponsored through the NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network. That distinction stands not only for the past two years, but for the last five years cumulatively. In addition, the Stephenson has been a top three site nationally for the number of patients participating in NCI-sponsored precision medicine trials. Robert Mannel, M.D., director of the Stephenson Cancer Center, attributed the center’s success in clinical research to physician and staff commitment to each patient who receives care at the cancer center.

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“The mission of the Stephenson Cancer Center is to improve patient outcomes and reduce the burden of cancer for all Oklahomans,” he said. “One of the most important ways we do that is by offering a large portfolio of early- and late-phase clinical trials for all types and stages of cancer. This provides our patients access to the newest and most promising treatment, screening and diagnosis options.” With this multimillion-dollar NCI grant, the Stephenson Cancer Center continues its status as a Lead Academic Participating Site in the National Clinical Trials Network, which was established by the NCI in 2014. Comprised of 30 of the top cancer centers in the nation, the National Clinical Trials Network is the largest clinical trials infrastructure in the nation for establishing new standards of cancer care and setting the stage for the approval of new therapies by the Food and Drug Administration. The new six-year NCI grant will allow the Stephenson to continue to expand its robust clinical trials portfolio and infrastructure. Specifically, it will support the addition of new clinical research staff with expertise in research nursing, study coordination, regulatory affairs and data management.

“That study showed that we doubled response rates with two immunotherapies instead of one, and it has opened the door to further drug development of combination immunotherapies in ovarian cancer,” Moore said. “We had several patients who participated in that trial and responded well to therapy.” In May 2018, the Stephenson Cancer Center was awarded the prestigious “NCI Designation” status from the National Cancer Institute. This highly competitive distinction places the Stephenson Cancer Center among the top 70 cancer centers in the nation, and it culminates more than 15 years of effort to develop a world-class cancer center in Oklahoma. During his visit to Oklahoma last spring for the NCI Designation announcement, former NCI Director Ned Sharpless, M.D., praised Stephenson Cancer Center’s commitment to clinical research: “Clinical trials are the way we change the standard of care, and they are absolutely important for progress against cancer. The Stephenson Cancer Center does that about as well as anybody in the country.”

Since it was initially designated a Lead Academic Participating Site in 2014, the Stephenson Cancer Center has made several groundbreaking clinical trials available to Oklahoma patients. Among them was NCI-MATCH, a precision medicine treatment trial in which eligible patients were “matched” with state-ofthe-art therapies based on the genetic changes found in their specific tumors. NCI-MATCH, which is ongoing, is one of the largest precision medicine trials being conducted in the world.

“This innovative trial offers personalized therapy to patients.” “This innovative trial offers personalized therapy to patients,” Moore said. “Each patient on the trial had their tumor biopsied and sequenced to see if they had a gene mutation that was known to respond to a specific drug. It didn’t matter what type of cancer they had – they received the drug treatments for which their molecular alteration matched.” Another achievement was the Stephenson Cancer Center’s participation in an NCI-sponsored clinical trial that evaluated immunotherapy combinations for women whose ovarian cancer had been previously treated but recurred.

Kathleen Moore, M.D., talks about the importance of clinical trials during the Stephenson Cancer Center event announcing a National Cancer Institute grant.

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Neurosurgeon Bradley Bohnstedt, M.D., was the first in Oklahoma to use the Surpass Streamline Stent to treat aneurysms.

Neurosurgeon First in State to Use New Stent for Aneurysms Aneurysms in the brain are dangerous because, if they rupture, patients face a significant chance of dying within six months. To decrease that possibility, OU Medicine neurosurgeons are using a new medical device to prevent aneurysm rupture and recurrence — without major surgery opening a patient’s skull. Neurosurgeon Bradley Bohnstedt, M.D., has been using the Surpass Streamline™ Flow Diverter to divert the flow of blood away from an aneurysm, which greatly decreases its potential for rupture. The procedure is minimally invasive – via a catheter, the stent is inserted into a blood vessel near the groin, then Bohnstedt directs it all the way up to the aneurysm in the brain. OU Medicine was the first in Oklahoma to place the Surpass Stent in a patient. The advantage of the device is that it is designed to treat larger aneurysms in more areas of the brain. The technology is called “flow diversion” for its ability to route blood away from the aneurysm. “By diverting the flow of blood away from the aneurysm, it reduces the stress on the wall of the aneurysm and allows it to heal and shrink,” said Bohnstedt, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery.


“In six months to a year, the aneurysm takes on the normal shape of the blood vessel.” Bohnstedt describes aneurysms as blisters on the side of a blood vessel. If an aneurysm ruptures, 10 percent of patients will die before they make it to a hospital. Up to 50 percent of people whose aneurysms rupture will die by six months because of ensuing complications, Bohnstedt said. Because of readily available imaging techniques, physicians are finding more aneurysms today than ever before. Some aneurysms are small and never need to be treated, Bohnstedt said, but others are risky to the patient. “It’s important when we identify aneurysms that we stratify their risk for rupture to determine which ones need to be treated,” he said. “Then we want to treat them sooner rather than later.” The treatment of aneurysms has evolved as technology has improved. Traditionally, Bohnstedt would open up the patient’s skull and place a clip on the aneurysm to prevent its rupture. He still performs that surgery when necessary but, while effective, it is invasive and leads to a long recovery for the patient. With the advent of endovascular techniques,

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“It’s important when we identify aneurysms that we stratify their risk for rupture to determine which ones need to be treated. Then we want to treat them sooner rather than later.” neurosurgeons gained a minimally invasive method of accessing an aneurysm by traveling through the blood vessels. The first and second generations of endovascular treatment involved placing coils made of platinum inside the aneurysm to keep the blood flow at bay. With this technique, patients faced far less recovery time, but the aneurysms recurred about 40 percent of the time. The Surpass Stent, made of metal, is greatly improved in all areas – it works well for larger, more distant aneurysms and, once treated, they don’t seem to return. “We’re treating far more aneurysms with the Surpass Stent than we previously treated,” Bohnstedt said. “We also hope to be involved with the study for the next generation of the Surpass device, which will have the ability to treat even more sizes of aneurysms in additional parts of the brain. OU has been an early adopter of new technologies after FDA approval, which allows our patients to be a part of research studies for devices that aren’t readily available to the public.”

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Larry Wrede of Norman uses the nerve stimulation device that was shown in a trial to be effective for treating atrial fibrillation.

OU Medicine Study Reveals Promising Results for Innovative Atrial Fibrillation Treatment Norman resident Larry Wrede didn’t know he had any problems with his heart, but when he felt his heart rate dramatically increase one evening, he knew he should see his doctor.

“We found a way to non-invasively stimulate the nerve from the ear to suppress atrial fibrillation,” he said. “We’re essentially regulating the influence of the brain to the heart.”

That visit ultimately led to his participation in an innovative research study to treat atrial fibrillation at OU Medicine.

In the study, 53 patients at OU Medicine were randomized into two groups – one receiving the actual treatment, the other receiving a sham treatment. The study was double-blinded, meaning neither the study participants nor the investigators knew which treatment was the real one. Participants receiving the real treatment were given a small device with an ear clip that they placed on the tragus – the piece of cartilage just above the ear lobe on the facial side. The device delivered a low-level electrical stimulation. Patients were asked to adjust the stimulation until they felt a mild discomfort, then decrease it a bit so it was tolerable. More than 75 percent of participants followed the daily requirements of the study, a rate similar to adherence in medication studies.

Cardiologist Stavros Stavrakis, M.D., Ph.D., driven to improve the quality of life for patients like Wrede, was the lead author for the TREAT AF trial, which showed remarkable results for a novel way to treat the condition. The study tested a non-invasive treatment to regulate the abnormal heart rhythm of atrial fibrillation: stimulation of a nerve through a clip on the patient’s ear. The brain controls the function of the heart by sending communications through the vagus nerve. As the largest nerve in the body, the vagus begins in the brain and travels down the neck, to the heart, and down into the stomach and intestines. But it can be stimulated on the ear. Stavrakis’ hypothesis was that an electrical stimulation on the vagus nerve could suppress atrial fibrillation. His trial was the first to study the treatment in humans.


In the study, patients used the device on their own for one hour each day for six months, and they wore monitors that measured their heart rhythm. At the end of six months, the patients receiving the treatment had an 85 percent decrease

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“We found a way to non-invasively stimulate the nerve from the ear to suppress atrial fibrillation. We’re essentially regulating the influence of the brain to the heart.” in the amount of atrial fibrillation as compared to those who didn’t receive the treatment. For Stavrakis, who has worked for 10 years to bring his research to a clinical trial for humans, the news was exciting.

breath, weakness, lightheadedness and fatigue. Stavrakis aims to improve his patients’ quality of life by reducing those symptoms and potentially decreasing the likelihood of more serious heart problems. Because this was a small, single-center study, the next steps are to test the treatment in more patients at multiple sites across the country. Stavrakis also plans to conduct research to identify which patients would benefit the most from vagus nerve stimulation, using EKG, echocardiogram or blood draws to potentially identify a marker. In addition, he will further investigate another finding of the trial: Patients receiving the treatment also showed decreased inflammation in their blood. Because inflammation is known to play a role in many other diseases, that discovery warrants further investigation, he said. Because he is both a physician and a researcher, Stavrakis was especially gratified by the study outcomes because his years of hard work are paying off in ways that can help his patients. “This is one of the most exciting parts of my work because something we’ve been doing in the laboratory can now be taken to patients,” he said.

“We were expecting some effect from the stimulation, but this was a great effect,” he said. “The beauty of this is that it’s a low-cost, low-risk intervention.” Notably, the stimulation had a carryover effect – atrial fibrillation was suppressed for 24 hours even though the stimulation was applied for one hour daily. That’s good news, Stavrakis said, because it means patients would not have to use the device all the time. Even though he didn’t know whether he was using the real or sham stimulation, Wrede suspected his was the real one. His resting heart rate, which had been surging as high as 165 beats per minute, began dropping and never climbed that high again, nor as frequently. He easily worked the process into his daily routine: Every morning as he drank his coffee and read the day’s news, he did the stimulation. Participating in the study made him intrigued about the potential of stimulation as a treatment. “It was exciting to be a part of such a cutting-edge study,” he said. Stavrakis presented the findings of his study earlier this year to the annual meeting of the Heart Rhythm Society, the largest arrhythmia-related meeting in the world. The study is important because the global burden of atrial fibrillation is significant. The condition affects more than 33.5 million people around the world, a number that is expected to grow to 50 million in the next 20 years because of obesity and an aging population, Stavrakis said. People with atrial fibrillation often experience shortness of

Stavros Stavrakis, M.D., Ph.D.

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OU Medicine Researcher Earns $2.7 Million Grant for Smartphone-Based Tobacco Cessation Study

Businelle has conducted several years’ worth of development and research on his tobacco cessation app, called Smart-T (Smart Treatment). Before he arrived at OU Medicine, he was a faculty member at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas, where his team created the first version of the app. In his original study, he loaned smartphones to participants who were prompted by the app to answer about 25 questions at five different times during the day. The questions asked about things like current urge to smoke, motivation to quit, access to cigarettes, and whether they had consumed alcohol recently. The questions were then narrowed down to the six most relevant, which were used to create a smoking lapse risk estimator that determines whether a person is in danger of relapsing in the next few hours. “Our research showed that the risk estimator predicted about 80 percent of all smoking lapses within four hours of the lapse,” Businelle said. “Sometimes the risk estimator would know about the potential for relapse before the person was aware of it.”

Michael Businelle, Ph.D.

For smokers who are trying to quit, what if a smartphone app could predict when they are most likely to relapse and light a cigarette? And what if that app could intervene, sending its users messages that successfully diverted them from smoking? Such technology has been created at the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center, a program of the Stephenson Cancer Center at OU Medicine. The researcher who created the app, Michael Businelle, Ph.D., recently received a $2.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to conduct a larger study on its effectiveness as compared to other types of cessation tools. In a time when most people have smartphones, almost always within arm’s reach, such technology is proving to be a valuable means of behavior change. “Statistics show that nearly 80 percent of smokers want to quit, but without help, less than 5 percent are successful,” Businelle said. “People spend a lot of time on their phones, particularly texting and using apps. I see health behavior change services like smoking cessation becoming more and more mobile.”


Businelle’s previous study set the stage for his current funding. In the earlier study, 81 people were randomized into three treatment groups: the Smart-T app; in-person cessation counseling; or an app produced by the National Cancer Institute. Businelle was pleasantly surprised by the results: 22 percent of those who used Smart-T quit smoking, compared to 15 percent for those who received in-person counseling or used the National Cancer Institute app. Although the sample size was small, the results warranted a larger study, for which he received the $2.7 million federal grant. For five years, the study will follow 450 participants who will be randomized into two groups. When the risk for lapse is high, the Smart-T app delivers a tailored message in real time. If individuals indicate that their current stress level is high, they immediately receive a message about coping with stress. Or if they report their motivation to quit is low, they receive a message that aims to increase motivation. “Smart-T truly tailors treatment content to what is needed in that moment,” he said. The app has additional features that are crucial to the study. For instance, it has on-demand treatment functions so that users can click a “quit tips” button at any time to read through tips on how to cope with stress and urges to smoke. In the newly funded study, participants will blow into a small device that connects to the phone and measures the level of carbon monoxide in their breath, which determines if they have smoked recently. This reduces the burden on participants because they will not have to return to the clinic to verify if they successfully quit smoking or not. Businelle’s hypothesis is that Smart-T will help people to stop smoking and remain tobacco-free. The advantage of the app,

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OU College of Medicine Researcher Earns Federal Grant to Study Molecule’s Potential as Cancer Drug Target

A smartphone app, created at the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center, shows promise as a smoking cessation tool.

he said, is its ability to prompt people with questions throughout the day and then automatically deliver tailored messages in real time, a function that other apps don’t have. Using an app for tobacco cessation may not be for everyone, he said, but it is sure to appeal to many people. Because Oklahoma is such a rural state, many people don’t have the time or resources to drive longer distances to a tobacco cessation clinic. Calling the tobacco quitline has helped many people quit, but those calls may last up to 30 minutes vs. interacting with Smart-T for 30 seconds five times a day, wherever the user may be. “As a clinical psychologist, my expertise is in helping people change behaviors they want to change,” Businelle said. “Mobile technology holds much potential for helping people who want to quit smoking.”

Ralf Janknecht, Ph.D.

The tragic irony about breast cancer is that patients usually don’t die because of the initial tumor, but when the cancer metastasizes. That reality drives researchers to find a way to keep cancer from spreading. Ralf Janknecht, Ph.D., a researcher in the Department of Cell Biology at the OU College of Medicine, has been analyzing the behavior of a particular molecule that is overproduced in breast cancer. This year, he was awarded a five-year, $1.78 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to further evaluate the molecule’s potential in reducing cancer

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metastasis. His discoveries thus far suggest that the molecule, called DNPH1, has the capability to serve as a drug target for stopping the spread of cancer. Janknecht has been investigating DNPH1 for many years. His interest was piqued when he discovered that the molecule was being produced in excess in breast cancer, including the major types, HER2-positive, estrogen-positive and triplenegative. He also saw that the amount of DNPH1 correlated with the aggressiveness of the disease – the higher the level of the molecule, the lower the survival rate of the patient.

Stephenson Cancer Center Researcher Receives Major Grant to Study Gene’s Potential for Suppressing Tumor Cells

“That suggested to us that DNPH1 is important for disease initiation and progression, and therefore it could be a new drug target,” he said. To better understand the role of DNPH1, Janknecht’s laboratory first created a mouse research model in which the molecule was removed. To his surprise, its removal had no effect on the health of the mouse. That was good news because it indicates that higher doses of chemotherapy targeting DNPH1 could be given without normal cells being affected and, therefore, without undesirable side effects. But more study was needed. His next step was to create a mouse model that develops breast cancer and has had the DNPH1 molecule removed. That’s when Janknecht received even better news. “With the DNPH1 removed, we saw fewer tumors per mouse and a tenfold reduction in metastasis,” he said. Janknecht’s new grant will allow him to further study why DNPH1’s overproduction leads to more aggressive cancer. As he continues adding to the scientific literature with his research, his aim is to work toward a grant that would allow drug development to begin. The process of research isn’t fast, but its measured progress is important to build a strong foundation of knowledge. Janknecht’s research also serves as an example of the importance of local funding to keep a project alive. Before he secured his recent federal grant, he was supported by grants from the Presbyterian Health Foundation, the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, and the Oklahoma Center for Adult Stem Cell Research, a program of the Oklahoma Tabacco Settlement Endowment Trust. With the progress he made using those grants, he successfully attracted federal funding. Learning more about how molecules operate is fascinating as a basic science researcher, Janknecht said, but his determination also is fueled by potentially helping people survive cancer. “When your motivation is to help cure a disease, you know your research is not only for the books, it’s for real life,” he said. “That’s great motivation.”


Rajagopal Ramesh, Ph.D.

Lung cancer is a notoriously difficult type of cancer to treat because, in most cases, it has spread to other parts of the body by the time it is discovered. However, if microscopic lung tumor cells could be detected earlier, treatment might have a better chance of being effective. Rajagopal Ramesh, Ph.D., a researcher in the Department of Pathology and the Stephenson Cancer Center, recently received a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to further study a gene that shows promise in suppressing tumor cells. Ramesh’s research focuses on gene-based therapeutics – using the body’s own genes to prevent or treat cancer rather than drugs or surgery. For this study, Ramesh and his research team are studying a gene called interleukin 24, or IL-24. Previous studies have shown IL-24 to suppress tumor growth, and it is safe to insert into a patient’s cells. But to harness the gene to its full potential, Ramesh knew he had to dig deeper into one question: Why does IL-24 have the ability to suppress tumors when other genes in its family cannot?

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“Dr. Ramesh’s research is exciting because it has the potential to progress to a treatment that can give patients with cancer new hope.” “To understand what is so unique about this particular family member, we had to conduct studies into the function of this gene,” he said. Just like humans, the siblings in a gene’s family have different personalities. IL-24 is one of six offspring of its parent, called IL-10. Of the six, IL-24 is the only one that has the ability to suppress tumor cells. In addition, IL-24 has five sites through which it undergoes phosphorylation – the mechanism by which it can be altered. In the process of studying all the possible combinations of phosphorylation sites, Ramesh discovered that if one particular site is removed, IL-24 bcomes even better at suppressing tumor cells. Ramesh compares these sites to the guidance system in a car. “The phosphorylation dictates the function,” he said. “It would be like my car’s GPS telling me what my destination is.” Ramesh’s latest grant will allow him to further investigate the ability of IL-24 to suppress tumor growth in both cell culture dishes and animal research models. An additional component of his research will study whether IL-24, if combined with other immune therapies known to suppress cancer, can provide even greater ability to detect and eliminate micro-metastatic lung tumors that often evade detection.

directed to the cancer cells, which they can enter because of their small size. Because the nanoparticle delivery system is already showing its effectiveness and safety in humans, it will accelerate IL-24 to becoming an approved cancer therapy if Ramesh’s research progresses as anticipated. In a state like Oklahoma, which has a higher rate of lung cancer diagnoses than the national average, that’s good news. Gene therapy and immune therapy are two of the most promising areas for new cancer treatments. As part of an academic health system and as Oklahoma’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, the Stephenson places a high priority on research. “Dr. Ramesh’s research is exciting because it has the potential to progress to a treatment that can give patients with cancer new hope,” said Robert Mannel, M.D., director of the Stephenson Cancer Center. “On our campus, researchers frequently collaborate with physicians to develop new research projects. Those partnerships hold tremendous promise for future patient treatments.”

New Grant Allows OU College of Medicine Researcher to Study Role of ‘Scissor-like’ Protein in Several Cancers

“Micro-metastatic tumors are invisible clinically. They may be dormant for some time, but can start growing quickly within a short time,” he said. “If we can use IL-24 to help activate the immune system, which can be heightened by adding immune therapy, it will continue to recognize the insidious cancer cells and eliminate them.” Because IL-24’s potential is through gene therapy rather than a drug, its success is contingent upon being delivered to the correct place in the human body. That’s where Ramesh’s previous research comes into play. His laboratory has successfully created a lipid-based nanoparticle delivery system, which is currently in Phase 2 clinical trials in humans. Carrying IL-24 as a “passenger,” the nanoparticles are

Marie Hanigan, Ph.D.

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Much like a mechanic fixing a car, a cell biologist must understand how the parts of a healthy cell function in order to make repairs when the cell stops working correctly and contributes to disease. Marie Hanigan, Ph.D., a researcher in the Department of Cell Biology in the OU College of Medicine, recently received a three-year, $960,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to further her research on a protein called GGT – gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase. When it is functioning normally, GGT serves a positive role in the body. But when the amounts are too high or it is present in the wrong location in the body, GGT can be destructive. “As is often the case, too much of a good thing can be harmful,” Hanigan said of GGT. “We were able to solve the structure of GGT at the molecular level, which helps us to understand how it contributes to specific diseases and provides insight into how to block its activity.” Hanigan, who holds a doctorate in oncology, is especially interested in GGT’s role in cancers of the liver, prostate, breast and ovary. GGT, which sits on the outer surface of several types of cells in the body, is actually like a pair of scissors whose role is to cut a gamma-glutamyl bond into two pieces. A low level of cutting is useful and contributes to good health. But the role of GGT changes when it is present in high amounts and cuts too much.

California. Hanigan also collaborates with a colleague at the University of Florida who specializes in molecular modeling, as well as with colleagues at the OU College of Pharmacy who are synthesizing new drugs. In addition, Hanigan’s laboratory received funding from Oklahoma’s Presbyterian Health Foundation that enabled her to make the discoveries that attracted federal funding. “Science is really a huge team effort because you need the expertise and equipment from a large number of sources,” she said.

Stephenson Cancer Center Physician is Senior Author on Major Study Showing Ovarian Cancer Survival Increase

“GGT is overexpressed in several types of cancers, so we want to be able to block this overexpression and calm everything down in the body,” Hanigan said. “There are currently no compounds that can be used in humans to safely inhibit GGT.” Hanigan’s ultimate goal is to create a new drug that can block, or inhibit, the cutting activity of GGT. Her team has had some initial success creating molecules that inhibit GGT, and she holds two patents for those discoveries. Her new grant will allow her team to develop more refined inhibitors and to test them for toxicity. In the process of testing inhibitors, Hanigan made an additional – and surprising – discovery. When GGT is inhibited, it completely eliminates the kidney toxicity associated with a widely used type of chemotherapy. That discovery identifies another important use for a GGT inhibitor – chemotherapy is often less effective than desired because toxic side effects limit the dose that can be used to treat patients, she said. Hanigan’s research is an example of the importance of collaboration on the path to drug discovery. To solve the structure of GGT at the molecular level, the protein was first formed into crystals. However, to see its structure, highenergy radiation was required. For that step, the crystals were sent to national synchrotron laboratories in New York and


Joan Walker, M.D., led a large clinical trial that compared different treatments for women with ovarian cancer. The trial showed longer survival times with viewer side effects

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A gynecologic oncologist at the Stephenson Cancer Center at OU Medicine was a national leader of a newly published research study that reveals good news for women with ovarian cancer – longer survival times plus a treatment option that causes fewer difficult side effects. Joan Walker, M.D., was the senior author of the large clinical trial, which enrolled 1,560 patients from around the nation, including 38 Oklahomans. The research was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, a leading peer-reviewed journal. The clinical trial compared three different treatments for ovarian cancer, as well as the way they were administered – either through an IV or through a port in the abdomen. All patients in the study underwent surgery to remove their tumors. Among patients whose surgeries removed all but 1 centimeter or less of cancer, the results were heartening — about 75 months of survival compared to 68 months of survival for patients in a similar previous study. For patients who had no residual cancer left after surgery, their survival increased to 100 months. In addition, the treatment regimen with the fewest side effects was just as effective as the ones with more side effects. “To have our patients live for more than five years is pretty remarkable,” said Walker, who holds the Louise and Clay Bennett Endowed Chair in Cancer at the Stephenson Cancer Center. “This clinical trial gives our patients with ovarian cancer more hope that long-term survival is possible, and with a treatment that is much more tolerable.” The foundation for the current clinical trial was laid years ago. In 2006, Walker was the author for a similar study that compared chemotherapy given either through an IV or through an abdominal port. The results of that study were very promising at the time – 68 months’ survival – but side effects like nausea, vomiting and neuropathy were so significant that less than half of eligible women opted for the treatment. That’s when Walker and her colleagues set out to discover a treatment that was at least as effective but with fewer side effects. Their work led them to the recently published study. Eligible patients enrolled on the study had been diagnosed with stage two, three or four ovarian cancer. After surgery, they were randomized into three treatment regimens. One delivered two types of chemotherapy – paclitaxel and carboplatin – through an IV. The second regimen featured the same types of chemotherapy, but with one given through an abdominal port. The third regimen added a third type of chemotherapy, cisplatin, that was given through an abdominal port. In addition, patients on each regimen received the drug bevacizumab through an IV.

After receiving their treatments, patients were followed for 84.8 months. In addition to the improved survival rate, several other findings bring reason for new hope. Because the outcomes were the same for each regimen, patients can most likely choose the route with fewer side effects, Walker said. Giving chemotherapy through an abdominal port is often difficult for patients. A catheter delivers the drug through the port, which is painful, and the site sometimes becomes infected. In addition, the IV therapies can be delivered in an outpatient setting, whereas patients previously had to be hospitalized. Medical oncologists can also administer the drugs in addition to gynecologic oncologists, which makes the treatments accessible to more people. As with most clinical trials, the results serve as a jumping off point for subsequent studies. Walker plans to analyze the genetics of each participant’s tumor to see if their mutations might make a subset of them respond better to one treatment regimen over another. The trial also underscores the importance of surgery for ovarian cancer. “Surgery is a very important part of patient’s outcome,” she said. “Earlier diagnosis of ovarian cancer, by recognizing the symptoms, will make surgery more successful. Identifying people with genetic mutations putting them at risk of cancer is also very important. Patients with ovarian cancer and anyone with a strong family history of breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancers should see a genetic counselor and get testing for known cancer-causing genes.” Walker also will be among many people continuing to study the effectiveness of bevacizumab for ovarian cancer, as well as which types of chemo pairings might make it more effective. Bevacizumab was approved for ovarian cancer treatment in June 2018 by the Food and Drug Administration. When the clinical trial began, it had not been approved but was provided by the National Cancer Institute. It essentially starves the tumor by blocking the production of blood vessels that feed it. Although establishing new treatments through clinical trials takes time, the resulting increases in survival demonstrate amazing progress, something Walker has witnessed during her long career, she said. “When I was a resident, we were giving one drug for ovarian cancer, and the survival was about 15 months,” she said. “Then we would find another drug or another combination, and the survival time kept increasing. To reach our current survival times is pretty profound.”

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The OU-TU School of Community Medicine Class of 2019 is pictured on graduation day in Tulsa.

Class of 2019 – First to Spend All Four Years in Tulsa – Graduates With Community Medicine State of Mind Members of the Class of 2019 at the OU-TU School of Community Medicine hold the distinction of being the first group to have spent all four years of their medical education at the Tulsa campus.

Community medicine involves understanding the social determinants of health and putting yourself in other people’s shoes and trying to figure out how you can best help them. And it’s not always a prescription.”

Beyond that uniqueness, however, was the distinctiveness of their education. The class was immersed in the concept of community medicine – improving the health of a population by understanding the multitude of factors and issues that affect health.

The School of Community Medicine also is celebrating the fact that, out of a class of 30, 11 graduates are staying on campus for their residencies. That not only means they will continue their training with a community medicine mindset, but that they are more likely to stay in Oklahoma to practice medicine. One of the drivers for establishing the School of Community Medicine was to broaden access to healthcare and decrease the disparities that exist between north and south Tulsa.

“One of the incredible things as an educator and a dean has been to watch the professional identity formation of this class,” said James Herman, M.D., dean of the School of Community Medicine. “It’s been gratifying to meet these very bright students, who came in on the first day of medical school anxious about what was to come, then to watch them learn all the science and figure out how to manage patients’ problems.


“We know that if someone does their medical school and residency in Oklahoma, there’s about a 65 percent chance they will stay in Oklahoma,” Herman said. “Our goal is to have more physicians for Oklahoma and our region.”

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In addition to their traditional classes, students in the Class of 2019 experienced a variety of programs that comprise community medicine. They spent a total of 4,628 hours working in the Bedlam Clinics, which were launched to address the needs of the working insured. Students learned how to listen to their patients and to practice empathy for the problems that were affecting their health, Herman said. The combination of grateful patients and students eager to learn is a magical mix, he said. During the Class of 2019’s time on campus, the Culinary Medicine program was launched in conjunction with the OU College of Public Health. Students learn about the role of food in both physical and mental health, and receive in-depth training through cooking classes and nutrition classes so they can understand food’s role in conditions like hypertension, cancer and mental health.

“I believe the School of Community Medicine really draws in students who are kind, creative, empathetic and passionate about helping people,” Kaiser said. “Those characteristics are so important in medicine, but they also make for really wonderful classmates. “And I believe the fact that 11 of us from our class are staying in Tulsa for residency is a huge testament to the incredible learning environment that has been fostered on campus,” she said.

Tulsa Clinic Named Patient-Centered Medical Home

Students also learn about how adverse childhood experiences can affect the health of people through their lifespan, and the trauma-informed care that is necessary to treat body, mind and spirit. The work and insights that students brought to such programs will continue to build with each subsequent class, Herman said, and lead to community-level diagnoses to improve the health of populations.

The OU Physicians Tulsa Pediatrics Clinic has earned recognition as a Patient-Centered Medical Home, a distinction awarded by the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

Class Vice President Barrie Jo Kaiser, M.D., who is staying on the Tulsa campus for her residency in pediatrics (ultimately specializing in child neurology), said the School of Community Medicine broadened her understanding of the hurdles some patients have to jump over in order to receive medical care. She said the Summer Institute, which students take in their first year of medical school, set the stage for continued learning about her patients’ lives. The class participated in a poverty simulation in which they were given tasks to perform without the resources needed to easily accomplish them. She took part in a city bus simulation that helped her to understand how difficult it is to get around Tulsa without a car.

Under the patient-centered medical home model, physicians play a proactive role in addressing all the health needs of a patient, offering comprehensive, coordinated care with a clinician-led team rather than treating each health episode individually as it arises. Patient-centered care emphasizes easy access to care; the use of health information technology to help coordinate care and follow patients’ progress; and the forging of health partnerships between physicians and patients.

“When we volunteer in the Bedlam Clinics, we really get to put all of the things that we learn through these simulations and special courses into practice,” she said. “Bedlam has pushed me to grow in my medical knowledge in order to provide the best care possible to patients, and has helped me to have a broader understanding of many of the social and cultural aspects that affect a patient’s health.”

“NCQA Patient-Centered Medical Home recognition raises the bar in defining high-quality care by emphasizing access, health information technology and coordinated care focused on patients,” said NCQA President Margaret E. O’Kane. “Recognition shows that the OU Physicians Tulsa Pediatrics Clinic has the tools, systems and resources to provide its patients with the right care, at the right time.”

The Class of 2019 also became especially tight-knit during their four years together, said Meredith Talley, director of student services and admissions. They supported each other, volunteered without hesitating and socialized together, including wearing Hawaiian shirts every Friday. They also saw many life changes, including multiple weddings and new children.

The NCQA Patient-Centered Medical Home program reflects the input of the American College of Physicians, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Osteopathic Association and others. It was developed to assess whether clinician practices are functioning as medical homes and recognize them for these efforts.

With the addition of the Pediatrics Clinic, all OU Physicians primary care clinics in Tulsa are now a part of the PatientCentered Medical Home program.

According to the NCQA, research shows that PCMHs improve quality and the patient experience, and increase staff satisfaction — while reducing healthcare costs.

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Tulsa Students Present Crimson Apple, Peer Excellence Awards With the graduation of the School of Community Medicine’s first class of students to have spent all four years on the Tulsa campus, the program held its own awards banquet for the first time. Students in the Class of 2019 presented Crimson Apple Teaching Awards faculty members and residents who teach students during both their preclinical and clinical years. Winners were:

Internal medicine physician Jabraan Pasha, M.D., received both a Crimson Apple award and the Community Leader Award.

• Crimson Apple Preclinical Faculty Award: Kent Teague, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Research • Crimson Apple Volunteer Faculty Award: Christopher Sudduth, M.D., Medicine/Pediatrics • Crimson Apple Resident Award: Andrew Kajioka, D.O., OB-GYN, and Nasser Alamiri, M.D., Surgery • Crimson Apple Clinical Faculty Award: Jabraan Pasha, M.D., Internal Medicine Students also honored one another with Peer Excellence Awards. Winners were: • Class of 2019 Peer Excellence Award: Mark Street • Class of 2020 Peer Excellence Award: Jonathan Nahmias • Class of 2021 Peer Excellence Award: Katie Martin • Class of 2022 Peer Excellence Award: Nile McCullough The Community Medicine Leader Award, which recognizes a faculty or staff member who exemplifies the mission of the School of Community Medicine, was presented to Jabraan Pasha, M.D.

Tulsa medical students enjoying the School of Community Medicine’s awards banquet include, from left, Katie Martin, Barrie Kaiser, Dan Kaiser and Gabby Fleming


Class of 2019 member Mark Street was honored by his fellow students with a Peer Excellence Award.

Kent Teague, Ph.D., was honored with the Crimson Apple Preclinical Faculty Award by School of Community Medicine students.

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Vascular Surgeons Pioneer New Procedure for Kidney Dialysis Patients

anesthesia or a nerve block. Using ultrasound, the surgeon locates a spot just below the elbow where a vein runs next to the radial artery. A catheter-based device is inserted into the vein and guided to the point where it is adjacent to the artery. The surgeon punctures through the walls of both the vein and artery, and the device clamps them together, emitting low heat to fuse them and create the connection. The fistula can be seen immediately with ultrasound. Not only is the new procedure completed much faster – about 30 minutes vs. two hours for the surgical approach – but the patient’s veins are potentially ready to undergo dialysis much more quickly, Nelson said. Experience with the new procedure to date suggests dialysis can begin in as little as two weeks, compared to about three months with the surgical procedure. In addition, data from the clinical trial that led to approval of the Ellipsys device showed that these fistulas required fewer repair procedures over time than the surgically created fistulas.

OU Medicine vascular surgeons in Tulsa use the new Ellipsys device to fuse a patient’s artery and vain in preparation for kidney dialysis.

For the first time in many years, a major technological advance is changing treatment for patients requiring dialysis for kidney failure. OU Medicine vascular surgeons in Tulsa were the first surgical team in the United States to perform the new procedure using a device called the Ellipsys® Vascular Access System. Traditionally, patients with kidney failure would first undergo a surgery in which an artery and a vein in their arm were sewn together to accommodate the increased blood flow required for dialysis. The new approach uses a catheter-based system guided by ultrasound to create the same outcome in a quicker, less invasive procedure. “We’re seeing a lot of enthusiasm from patients about this new procedure,” said Peter R. Nelson, M.D., chief of the Section of Vascular Surgery on OU’s Tulsa campus and associate professor in the Department of Surgery. “It requires minimal anesthesia, no incision and is performed entirely with ultrasound guidance, which carries no risk to the patient.” The fusing of a vein and artery in preparation for dialysis is called an arteriovenous fistula. Without it, a person’s veins alone would not be sturdy enough to handle the needles and increased flow as a dialysis machine removes waste products from the blood. The traditional surgical procedure, while effective, took longer to perform and the patient had to wait about three months for the vein to thicken in preparation for increased pressure. The new procedure creates a percutaneous, or incision-less, arteriovenous fistula, and the patient requires only local

“Our patients have been very satisfied with the new procedure,” Nelson said. “They don’t have any pain or discomfort, and it doesn’t require radiation, as many other procedures do. We do these procedures in our outpatient clinic, and patients can go home in about 30 minutes.” As the Tulsa surgeons prepared to do their first case, they reunited with a physician they previously trained in the OU Tulsa vascular surgery fellowship, Alexandros Mallios, M.D. After finishing the program, Mallios returned to his home in Paris, France, where he helped to develop Ellipsys in Europe. He became an international leader in performing the procedure and relayed his experience first-hand when he returned to Oklahoma for the launch of the device. The vascular surgery team also took part in another milestone when they performed the procedure for the first time at a VA facility, the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee. As part of an academic medical system, the OU Medicine vascular surgeons will train their residents and fellows to perform the new procedure, ensuring they have the most up-to-date skills when they are ready to practice surgery on their own. In addition, OU’s vascular surgery group will serve as the lead site for the post-market clinical trial required by the FDA to ensure that patients continue to receive good results as use of the procedure expands. “The fact that there haven’t been technical advances in this area for a long time makes this particularly exciting,” Nelson said. “People are seeing that we’re doing something new and innovative. There are many patients yet to come who will benefit from this technology.”

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Matlock Jeffries, M.D., receives the Provost’s Research Award for Junior Faculty from Jason Sanders, M.D.

Faculty Honored For Excellence Numerous OU College of Medicine faculty members were honored during the spring 2019 OU Health Sciences Center faculty awards ceremony.

• Willard M. Freeman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Physiology

Regents’ Awards for Superior Research and Creative Activity:

• T. Kent Teague, Ph.D., Professor of Surgery, Tulsa, School of Community Medicine

• Jordan P. Metcalf, M.D., Professor of Medicine

• John T. Maple, D.O., Associate Professor of Medicine

• Dharambir Sanghera, Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics

Presbyterian Health Foundation Presidential Professorships:

Regents’ Award for Superior Professional & University Service & Public Outreach:

• Doris Mangiaracina Benbrook, Ph.D., Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology

• Karen Beckman, M.D., Professor of Medicine

• Priyabrata Mukherjee, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology

Regents’ Professorship:

Edith Kinney Gaylord Presidential Professorship:

• Benjamin D. Cowley Jr., M.D., Professor of Medicine

President’s Awards

• Raju V.S. Rajala, Ph.D., Professor of Ophthalmology

Provost’s Awards

David Ross Boyd Professorship:

Research – Junior Faculty

• William F. Kern III, M.D., Professor of Pathology

• Matlock A. Jeffries, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine

George Lynn Cross Research Professorship: • Paul M. Darden, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics

Research – Senior Faculty

President’s Associates Presidential Professorships:

• Mary Beth Humphrey, M.D., Ph.D., Professor

• Dolores Subia BigFoot, Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics


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of Medicine


College Honors Three With Rader, Humanism Awards

R. Michael Siatkowski, M.D., director of the ophthalmology residency program, receives the Lloyd Rader Sr. Award on behalf of resident Vincent Venincasa, M.D. Presenting the award is Elisa Crouse, M.D., associate dean of Graduate Medical Education.

During its faculty meeting in May, the OU College of Medicine presented its two springtime honors: The Lloyd E. Rader Sr. Award and the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award. The Tow Humanism in Medicine Award is given in recognition of demonstrated excellence in promoting scholarship, encouraging high standards of character and integrity and dedicated commitment to compassionate care of patients and to the art and science of medical practice. The 2019 recipient is Lisa Landrum, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and holder of the Warren M. Crosby Chair in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Landrum earned her doctorate in physiology at the OU Health Sciences Center prior to beginning medical school at OU, where she was selected for membership in the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. She has been a faculty member of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology since her residency in 2006, followed by her fellowship in gynecologic oncology. Landrum’s colleagues, both on campus and across the community, often seek her insight for difficult cases. Her peers say she is valued not only for her knowledge and technical skills, but for her humanistic approach and exceptional care she provides to her patients. Her interest in the humanistic side of medicine led her to obtain additional training and board certification in palliative medicine. The Lloyd Rader Award recognizes a resident or fellow who demonstrates great promise in advancing both the clinical practice of medicine and medical research. Two winners were chosen for 2019.

He is a “highly intellectual person and is one of the most talented pulmonary fellows with whom the section has worked” and someone who “always presents himself with a high standard of moral and professional conduct.”

Roberto Bernardo, M.D., pulmonary and critical care, is described as a “highly intellectual person and is one of the most talented pulmonary fellows with whom the section has worked” and someone who “always presents himself with a high standard of moral and professional conduct.” His major scholarly achievement has been the OU Pulmonary Hypertension Initiative, a quality improvement program to standardize and implement state-of-the-art evaluation and care for patients with pulmonary vascular disease. His research achievements have received international recognition. He has been accepted for a pulmonary hypertension fellowship at Stanford University beginning in July 2019, with plans to join the faculty at the OU College of Medicine following its completion. The second recipient of the Rader Award is Vincent Venincasa, M.D., an ophthalmology resident. Those nominating Venincasa describe him as “a shining example elevating the quality of research for residents and fellows” and “a model of kindness, compassion and sensitivity.” He has embraced research, publishing case reports and serving as co-author on 12 peer-reviewed publications. His greatest achievement has been an extremely large analysis of infants with retinopathy of prematurity seen at The Children’s Hospital over a five-year period. Parts of this study were presented at meetings of the American Ophthalmological Society and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the entire work has been published in the Journal of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Despite his busy residency, Venincasa volunteers at various charities in Oklahoma City and serves on the board of directors for one group.

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Toby and Tricia Keith accept their award for Distinguished Community Service during Evening of Excellence.

Keiths, Albrecht Honored at Evening of Excellence OU Medicine trauma surgeon Roxie Albrecht, M.D., and Oklahoma country music singer and philanthropists Toby and Tricia Keith were honored earlier this year for their contributions to the health and well-being of Oklahomans. They were recognized at the Evening of Excellence gala, sponsored each year by the OU College of Medicine Alumni Association. In addition to honoring Oklahoma physicians and community members, the event raises funds for early-career researchers at the OU College of Medicine. “We are pleased to honor these individuals for their commitment to our campus and to people throughout Oklahoma,” said Don Wilber, M.D., president of the OU College of Medicine Alumni Association. “Evening of Excellence is our most important event of the year because we not only celebrate achievements, but we raise money for the college’s junior researchers. Those researchers then leverage that funding to obtain larger federal grants.” As trauma medical director for OU Medical Center, Albrecht is


a leader for OU Medicine and is a dedicated educator training the next generation of surgeons. She joined OU in 2001 and was active in the development of the OU Medical Center Level 1 Trauma Center and the trauma system in Oklahoma. She serves as the Adult Safety Medical Director for the OU Physicians clinical practice, and is vice chair of the Department of Surgery in the OU College of Medicine. During her time in Oklahoma, she has advocated for trauma and injury prevention legislation. She is dedicated to patient safety and quality, and she passes those values along to the surgical residents and students she mentors. She is the faculty sponsor for the College of Medicine’s chapter of the Association of Women Surgeons, and she is one of only four Oklahomans to have served as director of the American Board of Surgery, the most influential surgical organization in the United States. “Dr. Albrecht has saved lives in multiple ways,” said Barish Edil, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery at the

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“The Kids Korral allows them to have a home away from home. We’re tremendously grateful for all that the Toby Keith Foundation has done.”

OU College of Medicine. “One of them is developing the trauma system for the state, which has resulted in thousands of lives saved.” Albrecht was awarded the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Medical Service. The Keiths were honored for their support of families and children who are undergoing treatment at The Children’s Hospital or other nearby facilities within OU Medicine. One of the most visible components of their charity work is OK Kids Korral, a state-of-the-art lodging facility on the south side of the campus. The facility, which opened in 2014, provides a free, convenient and comfortable home for pediatric cancer patients and their families. Described as a “place of hope,” OK Kids Korral provides both daytime and overnight lodging, kitchen and dining areas, living areas and a laundry room. The facility is especially important for families who must drive long distances to get to Oklahoma City. “Many children are sick enough that they need to be close to the hospital, so they can’t go home if they live far away, yet they’re not sick enough that they need to be in the hospital,” said David Crawford, M.D., Ph.D., a physician with the Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Children. “The Kids Korral allows them to have a home away from home. We’re tremendously grateful for all that the Toby Keith Foundation has done.” The Keiths were presented the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Community Service during the Evening of Excellence gala.

Trauma surgeon Roxie Albrecht, M.D., accepts the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Medical Service during the Evening of Excellence gala.

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From left, 2019 Alumni Day honorees are Bill McCurdy, M.D., Danny Cavett and Charles Pasque, M.D.

OU College of Medicine Alumni Association Honors Chaplain, Two Surgeons During Annual Awards OU Medicine’s longtime chaplain and children’s advocate, as well as two different surgeons, were honored this spring by the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine Alumni Association.

The children’s diagnoses include leukemia, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease and others, but they find common ground in attending camps where their illnesses don’t define who they are.

Chaplain Danny Cavett, along with OU Medicine orthopedic surgeon Charles Pasque, M.D., and retired Norman surgeon William C. “Bill” McCurdy, M.D., were honored during Alumni Reunion Day. Each year, the OU College of Medicine Alumni Association honors two alumni – one in academic medicine, one in private practice – as well as a “Friend of Medicine” who has contributed to the health and well-being of Oklahomans.

“Danny Cavett’s presence at OU Medicine over the last 40 years has allowed us to provide a level of personal pastoral care to thousands of people,” said Chuck Spicer, CEO of OU Medicine. “He and his team of chaplains provide pastoral care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and their kindness and compassion is so important to the families we serve. His impact has been felt well beyond the walls of the hospitals through his continued work with Camp Cavett. Danny is a life-changer.”

Cavett, director of the pastoral care team for OU Medicine, was presented the Friend of Medicine Award. Cavett came to OU Medicine more than 40 years ago and now leads a group of 11 chaplains who support patients, loved ones and hospital employees around the clock. Cavett also is known far beyond OU Medicine for his children’s camps. In 1997, he launched Camp Cavett, which welcomed more than 100 children experiencing illness to the inaugural summer camp. Since then, the effort has transitioned to Cavett Kids Foundation, which sponsors five annual camps that make a difference in the lives of 12,000 children and their families.


The Physician of the Year-Academic Medicine honor was presented to Pasque, a professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Rehabilitation at the OU College of Medicine. Pasque serves as director of the residency program, as well as director of research and sports medicine. He takes trauma calls for the Level 1 Trauma Center at OU Medical Center, and he sees patients for OU Physicians as a general orthopedic surgeon with a sports medicine emphasis.

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Wisdom, Cooper Receive University Honors “Danny Cavett’s presence at OU Medicine over the last 40 years has allowed us to provide a level of personal pastoral care to thousands of people.”

His medical expertise and service extend far beyond campus as well. He serves as a team physician with OU’s Athletic Department, and he is a captain in the United States Navy Reserve with more than 25 years of service, including three overseas deployments. “Dr. Pasque has an incredible sense of integrity and patriotism,” said J. Andy Sullivan, M.D., clinical professor and former chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Rehabilitation. “He spent long, grueling hours taking care of severely injured service members who would have died in previous conflicts.” The Physician of the Year-Private Practice award was presented to McCurdy, a Norman resident and retired surgeon.He is the third generation in a family of physicians, a legacy that began when his grandfather arrived in Purcell in 1903 to practice medicine. After McCurdy graduated from medical school and residency, he went to Vietnam, where he served as chief of surgery. Upon returning home, he established his general surgery practice in Norman and also went to his father’s practice in Purcell once a week to perform surgeries. Altogether, he practiced medicine 40 years. His cousin, Rick McCurdy, M.D., joined him for 27 of those years, and continues that surgical practice today. “He was my hero growing up across the street from him in Purcell,” Rick McCurdy said. “We always got along great, and still do. He had an excellent bedside manner, and he always maintained his calm in the operating room. He deserves Physician of the Year. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the physician of all years. I think that much of him.”

Peggy Wisdom, M.D.

Two OU College of Medicine alumni were honored with university awards during spring ceremonies. Peggy Wisdom, M.D., was presented with a Regents’ Alumni Award. Wisdom earned her medical degree in 1972 and has since contributed to the college and the OU Health Sciences Center in a myriad of ways. A neurologist, she was part of the O’Donoghue Rehabilitation Institute when it opened in the early 1980s. She established and developed the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program from 1982 to 1990. The program was the first accredited of its type in Oklahoma. Working with physical therapists, psychologists, speech therapists and other health professionals, she was instrumental in developing a team approach to treating traumatic brain injury and related disorders. The program also served as a major resource for interprofessional and interdisciplinary training for all levels of rehabilitation professionals. Wisdom went on to establish, and serve as medical director for, several crucial programs, including the Comprehensive Oklahoma Program for Epilepsy, the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Disease, VA Spinal Cord Injury Program, VA Traumatic Brain Injury Program and the VA Pain Program. From 1994 to 1997, she was chief of the neurology service at the VA, and from

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Aeronautics Space Administration to help create the conditioning program preparing America’s astronauts for space and in-flight anti-deconditioning program used to keep astronauts active while on board spacecraft. He also developed the 12-minute and 1.5-mile fitness tests and the Aerobics Point System, used today by military organizations, amateur and professional athletic teams, law enforcement agencies and public schools and universities worldwide. For nearly 50 years, his scientific research and expertise has shown that it’s easier to maintain good health than to regain it once it’s lost. Cooper challenges everyone to follow “8 Healthy Steps” to live better both sooner and later: maintain a healthy weight; make healthy food choices most of the time; exercise most days of the week; take the right supplements for you; do not use tobacco; control alcohol; manage stress; and get a regular, comprehensive physical exam. Cooper, who was born in Oklahoma City, is founder and chairman of Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, the home of six health and wellness companies and The Cooper Institute. His current focus is working to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic through school-based physical fitness and nutrition programs and assessments.

Kenneth Cooper, M.D.

1997 until 2015, she was the chief of neurology and rehabilitation at the VA. Her research interest in traumatic brain injury, along with her neurologic clinical practice at OU and at the VA, have led to improved quality of life for thousands of patients and a better understanding of the diagnosis and treatment of neurologic disorders.

Former Neuroanatomy Professor Dies

She also has advocated for and helped to develop interdisciplinary education programs at the OU Health Sciences Center in which students from all seven colleges, as well as the School of Social Work on OU’s Norman campus, learn how to care for patients as a team. Kenneth Cooper, M.D., who earned his bachelor of science and medical degrees from OU and a master of public health degree from Harvard School of Public Health, was presented an honorary degree during OU’s 2019 commencement ceremony. Cooper, who specializes in preventive medicine, is known as the “father of aerobics” for introducing the concept with his book “Aerobics” in 1968. It was the first of his 19 books on health and fitness. During his 13 years of service in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, he served as a flight surgeon and director of the Aerospace Medical Laboratory in San Antonio. He dreamed of becoming an astronaut and worked with the National


Philip “Alex” Roberts, Ph.D.

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Former OU College of Medicine faculty member Philip “Alex” Roberts, Ph.D., died April 16, 2019. Roberts served on faculty from 1968 to 1996. He taught neuroanatomy and wrote the Oklahoma Notes medical board study guide for neuroanatomy. He also trained many neurosurgery residents in his research lab. A beloved professor, he received numerous Aesculapian awards from his students. He was also honored with the Stanton L. Young Master Teacher Award and the Regents’ Award for Superior Teaching in 1988, and he received the Edgar W. Young Lifetime Achievement Award. He was invited to speak nationally and internationally about his research. Roberts also filled a unique role at the Office of the Medical Examiner in the days following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The medical examiner’s building, then on the corner of 10th Street and Stonewall, was filled to the brim with physicians, law enforcement, funeral directors and numerous others responding to the tragedy and loss of life. Volunteers soon provided food, supplies and everything they needed to work nonstop. But the facility’s lone janitor soon became overwhelmed with the mountain of trash. However, by about the third day after the bombing, the garbage cans were miraculously kept empty, the floor was clean and bathrooms were stocked with supplies. It was then that one of Roberts’ colleagues found him quietly filling the role of “janitor’s assistant” so that the work could continue. Born in 1934 in Manchester, England, Roberts went to North Manchester High School for boys, then served in the British Royal Air Force. Afterward, he became a technician for Manchester University Medical School Department of Anatomy. Later, he went to Uganda to work as chief technician at Makerere College Medical School Department of Anatomy. In 1961, he met and married his wife, Yvonne Hinett, in Nairobi, Kenya. In 1962, they came to the United States, where he worked as a research associate at the University of Kansas Medical School. He obtained his doctorate in anatomy in 1968. He then joined the OU College of Medicine, teaching and conducting research until his retirement in 1996. Roberts had three children, Gwenda Sharp, Andrew Roberts and Megan Peters, and nine grandchildren. His daughter Megan is a faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics at the OU College of Medicine. His memorial service was May 11 in Oklahoma City.

In Memoriam Ray Franklin Allen, ’60 M.D., Anadarko James C. Beavers, ’55 M.D., Oklahoma City William F. Browne, ’75 M.D., Tannersville, New York Harrison Gordon Butler III, ’68 M.D., Norman Cliff K. Callaway, ’70 M.D., Pineville, North Carolina John P. Clemons, ’82 M.D., Choctaw John A. Coates, ’55 M.D., Tulsa Jim C. Couch, ’62 M.D., Norman Robert Paul Dalton, ’91 M.D., Winter Park, Florida Robert William Dean, ’55 M.D., Claremore Ronald Louis Ercolani, ’72 M.D., Minneapolis, Minnesota Norman N. Hanks, ’63 M.D., Shawnee Charles David Harris, ’80 M.D., Oklahoma City Jeane Porter Hester, ’67 M.D., Houston, Texas William M. Jackman, ’67 M.D., Fort Myers, Florida Lawrence A. Jacobs, ’69 M.D., Tulsa Gale Robert Kimball, ’51 M.D., Nichols Hills Robert Wallace King Jr., ’71 M.D., Edmond Roger Lee Kinney, ’66 M.D., Sapulpa Keith Aaron Klopfenstein, ’56 M.D., Fort Smith, Arkansas Kenneth Leroy Koehn, ’61 M.D., Tahlequah Paul G. Kula, ’78 M.D., Mansfield, Texas Michael David McCullough, ’82 M.D., Sunset Beach, North Carolina Noel Eugene Miller, ’59 M.D., Oklahoma City Eric B. Mims, ’92 M.D., Fort Worth, Texas L. Sam Musallam, ’77 M.D., Oklahoma City Georgia Rae Prentice, ’69 M.D., Dana Point, California Randall Lee Purdy, ’93 M.D., Lumberton, North Carolina Gene Watts Slagle, ’47 M.D., Shreveport, Louisiana Bruce Clifton Stanton, ’72 M.D., Nichols Hills Addison E. Thurman Jr., ’71 M.D., Fort Worth, Texas Lanny Floyd Trotter, ’62 M.D., Stillwater James S. Wall, ’66 M.D., Norman Phillip Earl Washburn, ’66 M.D., Sapulpa James Patrick Worrell, ’84 M.D., Miami, Florida Gerald Catlin Zumwalt, ’56 M.D., Sapulpa

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Class Notes from Through the Decades 1950s Clint E. Chambers, ’59 M.D., served two years in northeastern Cambodia, constructing a hospital and caring for local patients. He went on to serve in the Air Force, working as a surgeon at medical units around the world. He retired as a colonel in 1982, then went into private surgery practice in Lubbock, Texas, from 1983 to 2003. He then worked at the Community Health Center of Lubbock until 2013. Billy Dale Dotter, ’59 M.D., is retired from general practice and surgery at The Okeene Clinic in Okeene, Oklahoma. He was a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. During his career, he served on the Physicians Manpower Training Commission of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians from 1975 to 1989. Doyle Eugene “Gene” Johnson, ’59 M.D., was in family medicine solo practice for 25 years. Afterward, he worked as a physician for the naval base in San Diego, serving activeduty personnel for 11 years. He maintains active licenses in California, Arizona and Colorado and does locum tenens from time to time. 1960s Bob Priest, ’64 M.D., continues to practice family medicine four and a half days a week in the same Pawhuska, Oklahoma, office where he has worked for 52 years. William C. McCurdy III, ’64 M.D., spent two years in Vietnam as a surgeon before returning home to private practice in general and vascular surgery in Norman. He practiced with his cousin, Dr. Rick McCurdy, and Dr. Dale Hughes. He served as chief of staff at Norman Regional Hospital and on the admissions board for the OU College of Medicine. David Tit-Chiu Chan, ’69 M.D., is retired after 45 years of family medicine, wound care and hyperbaric medicine in San Francisco and Las Vegas. He was medical director of an eight-doctor group and chair of the Department of General/ Family Medicine at Seton Medical Center in the San Francisco Bay area. He also served as medical director of Valley Hospital Wound Care & Hyperbaric Medicine in Las Vegas. Dennis W. Coffman, ’69 M.D., practiced family medicine for 46 years before retiring in July 2016. His achievements include helping to found the Nacogdoches Medical Center Hospital in 1975. Walter Curtis Dandridge Jr., ’69 M.D., retired from surgical


practice after 40 years. He lives in California and consults as a physician adviser. L. John Davis, ’69 M.D., retired in 2012 from his career in diagnostic radiology. His achievements included serving as chief of staff at St. Luke’s Hospital in Houston, president of the Houston Radiologic Society, and president of Singleton Associates in Houston. Michael R. Harkey, ’69 M.D., retired in 2014 after practicing anatomic pathology for 40 years – at Medical Arts Laboratory and Capitol Pathology Consultants in Oklahoma City from 1974 to 2000, and at Tulsa Medical Laboratory at St. Francis Hospital from 2000 to 2014. Thomas W. Lucas, ’69 M.D., continues to practice neuropsychiatry in Dallas, and he is an adjunct professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine, Dallas campus, teaching psychopharmacology and clinical neuroscience to medical students. D. Robert McCaffree, ’69 M.D., retired in June 2019 as a Regent’s Professor of Medicine at the OU College of Medicine. He plans to continue his work on policy issues with the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center, a program of the Stephenson Cancer Center. He also serves on the board of the North American Quitline Consortium. Rick McCurdy, ’69 M.D., is director of surgery at Norman Regional Hospital. He is a member of the American Board of Surgery, American Board of Thoracic Surgery, American College of Surgery and American College of Thoracic Surgery. James Wight, ’69 M.D., has practiced family medicine in Ada, Oklahoma, for 44 years. He continues that two-person practice with his partner of 41 years, Dr. Keith Falsarella. 1970s Chris Bogarosh, ’74 M.D., retired in 2013 from his family medicine/geriatrics practice, but continues working part time as a preceptor at a family medicine residency in Spokane, Washington. He also cares for patients at a local hospice. Robert Allan Breedlove, ’74 M.D., continues a part-time dermatology practice in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He previously served as a volunteer physician at the Stillwater Community Health Clinic. G. Kevin Donovan, ’74 M.D., is director of the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University Medical School in Washington, D.C. He previously was on faculty at OU’s School of Community Medicine in Tulsa. Darius R. Maggi, ’74 M.D., founded the West Africa Fistula Foundation and has taken 47 trips to Sierra Leone since 2002. The foundation was founded to bring value back to the lives of the women of Sierra Leone by providing them with access to education and resources to help reduce the number of new

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fistulas and to surgically remedy those that already exist. Joseph Mason, ’74 M.D., practiced medical oncology at Kaiser Permanente in San Jose, California, from 1981 until he retired in 2012. H. Miller Richert II, ’74 M.D., has practiced general ophthalmology in Abilene, Texas, since 1978. Since 2017, he has been reducing his schedule and surgical volume. He also serves as secretary for the Eyecare Consortium of Texas, which represents the ophthalmology departments for each state-supported medical school.

Round Rock, Texas. Laurie M. Patton, ’89 M.D., is medical director of Mountain View Pain Center in Centennial, Colorado. She also is an assistant professor in family medicine at University of Colorado College of Medicine and serves on its admissions committee. Nabil Srouji, ’89 M.D., is in private ophthalmology/retina practice at Oklahoma Retina in Oklahoma City. 1990s

Richard Herlihy, ’79 M.D., practiced general urology at the Oklahoma City Clinic until 1999, and now continues practicing at Mercy.

Julie Hansen, ’94 M.D., is in OB-GYN private practice at Edmond Integris Women’s Health in Edmond, Oklahoma.

David Matousek, ’79 M.D., has been in family medicine private practice in Enid, Oklahoma, for 37 years. He has served as chief of staff at both hospitals in Enid.

Christie Holmes, ’94 M.D., is founder and president of Desert Shores Pediatrics in Arizona. She also is on the board of managers for the Phoenix Children’s Care Network.

Robert Whiteneck, ’79 M.D., retired in 2014 after 30 years of orthopedic surgery private practice in Enid, Oklahoma. 1980s Susan Dimick, ’84 M.D., owns the Central Oklahoma Early Detection Center, a free-standing lipidology clinic in Edmond. She became board-certified in clinical lipidology in 2013. She also is a volunteer faculty member for the OU College of Medicine. Randy Fullerton, ’84 M.D., has been in solo internal medicine private practice in Nashville for 30 years. Charles M. Smith, ’84 M.D., is an emergency medicine physician at Banner Desert Medical Center in Phoenix. Stephen Smith, ’84 M.D., has worked 30 years as a staff anesthesiologist in Wilmington, North Carolina, doing cardiac cases and general surgery work at a large community hospital system. Dana Bock, ’89 M.D., has practiced 16 years in a five-doctor anesthesia group at Lakeside Women’s Hospital in Oklahoma City. She administers anesthesia for labor and delivery, gynecologic surgeries, breast surgeries and endoscopic procedures. Dan Hayward, ’89 M.D., is president of Southwestern Medical Clinic in Bridgman, Michigan. He also is medical director for post-acute care at Spectrum Health Lakeland. John Mark Janes, ’89 M.D., serves as medical director for several community mental health clinics in Texas. He also lectures to third-year medical students as an adjunct faculty member of Texas A&M University Health Science Center in

Treva Graham, ’99 M.D., practices family medicine at her clinic in Sayre, Oklahoma. She performs child abuse exams as needed and cares for nursing home patients. Kristy Marie Griffith, ’99 M.D., is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the OU-TU School of Community Medicine in Tulsa. For the past four years, she has been clinical medical director for OU Physicians Psychiatry. 2000s Stephanie Schniederjan, ’04 M.D., has practiced hematopathology in a reference laboratory in Georgia since 2010. Jessica Dawn Hildebrand, ’04 M.D., served with the U.S. Air Force from 2004 to 2011, and has practiced emergency medicine since then at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Oklahoma City. Kim Joseph Van Guilder, ’09 M.D., has practiced internal medicine for seven years with the Southern California Permanente Medical Group in Palm Springs, California. Adam Savage, ’09 M.D., works in anesthesia and pain management at Mercy Pain Management in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Dan Skelly, ’09 M.D., is the anesthesiology department chair at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Oklahoma City. Cole Wootton, ’09 M.D., practices at Western Oklahoma Urology in Elk City, Oklahoma.

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A Publication for Alumni and Friends of the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine

Profile for OUMedicine

OU Medicine Magazine Spring/Summer 2019