WINTER 2015 CONNECTING CONNEC TING ALUMNI, FRIENDS AND COMMUNITY
UBMedicine UB THE UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AND BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES
BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERS AT THE TABLE HELPING TO SOLVE SOME OF MEDICINE’S MOST INTRACTABLE PROBLEMS
School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences John R. Oishei Childrenâ€™s Hospital (Kaleida Health) Conventus medical office building UB Clinical and Translational Research Center and Kaleida Healthâ€™s Gates Vascular Institute Buffalo General Medical Center (Kaleida Health)
Roswell Park Cancer Institute NFTA Metro Allen/Hospital station (will be encapsulated within the new medical school)
Phase 2 of construction for the new School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is set to begin this spring.
Building a new medical school in downtown Buffalo will be a defining moment in UB’s history and in the development of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The university’s long-term strategy for a UB Downtown Campus is focused on the relocation of the UB medical school to downtown Buffalo to help form the region’s first comprehensive academic health center. The academic health center will create a comprehensive, interconnected teaching, research and clinical care environment for the community, faculty and students. To learn more about Phase 2 of construction, turn to page 4.
TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S
Michael E. Cain, MD Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
UB MEDICINE MAGAZINE, Winter 2015, Vol. 3, No. 1
Editor Stephanie A. Unger
Contributing Writers Mary Cochrane, John DellaContrada, Lori Ferguson, Ellen Goldbaum, Colleen Karuza, Judson Mead, Mark Sommer
VITAL LINES Progress notes
Copyeditor Tom Putnam
Photography Joseph Cascio, Philip J. Cavuoto, Sandra Kicman, Douglas Levere
Partnerships at work
Art Direction & Design Karen Lichner
30 DOCTOR VISITS
Editorial Advisers John J. Bodkin II, MD ’76 Elizabeth A. Repasky, PhD ’81
Reflections on careers
Major Affiliated Teaching Hospitals Erie County Medical Center Roswell Park Cancer Institute Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System
32 PATHWAYS 36 Q & A Conversations with experts
People in the news
Anthony Campagnari, PhD, senior associate dean for research and professor of microbiology/immunology, is collaborating with biomedical engineers at UB to develop a new approach to treating infections in orthopaedic implants.
10 Biomedical Engineers as Collaborators Health sciences faculty are working with biomedical engineers to find innovative solutions to pressing health care problems.
18 A SURGEON WHO RECONSTRUCTS BODIES AND LIVES Branko Bojovic, MD ’02, is a pioneering facial transplant surgeon with deep roots in Western New York and UB.
COVER IMAGE: Emily Brooks, PhD student in biomedical engineering, with her mentor Mark Ehrensberger, PhD, center, and their collaborator, Anthony Campagnari, PhD. Photo by Douglas Levere
A TALENT FOR MENTORING TALENT Margarita Dubocovich, PhD, is a world-renowned researcher dedicated to helping aspiring scientists from all walks of life.
26 FAMILY TEAMS UP WITH MS RESEARCHER
The Kalec family is committed to long-term support of Fraser Sim’s groundbreaking studies on multiple sclerosis.
Kaleida Health Buffalo General Medical Center Gates Vascular Institute Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital Catholic Health Mercy Hospital of Buffalo Sisters of Charity Hospital Correspondence, including requests to be added to or removed from the mailing list, should be sent to: Editor, UB Medicine, 901 Kimball Tower, Buffalo, NY 14214; or email email@example.com UB Medicine is published by the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to inform alumni, friends and community about the school’s pivotal role in medical education, research and advanced patient care in Buffalo, Western New York and beyond. Visit us: medicine.buffalo.edu/alumni 14-UC-043
U B M E D V I TA L L I N E S
CUMMINGS FOUNDATION AWARDS $1 MILLION TO NEW MEDICAL SCHOOL
Rendering by HOK
Gift supports a transformation of anatomy, cell biology and pathology education and research at UB
Architectural rendering of the new UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences being built on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
The James H. Cummings Foundation of Buffalo has given $1 million to the new School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “We are very grateful to the Cummings Foundation for this significant gift,” says Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “It is a clear demonstration of the foundation’s support for the educational and scientific innovations that the new medical school makes possible. It comes as we conclude the first construction phase of the building, which will be a regional center of expertise with national and international impacts on research, education and patient care.” The gift will support the development of a Structural Science Learning Center (SSLC), designed to foster an innovative approach to teaching and research in anatomical science, under the direction of John E. Tomaszewski, MD, chair of the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences. He was recruited in 2011 from the University of Pennsylvania. “The goal is to transform anatomy, cell biology and pathology education and research by bringing them into the digital age,” Tomaszewski says. “Advanced computational tools now allow for the mining of the tremendous quantitative structural information embedded in human anatomy, cells and molecules,” he says. “Those data can be used to
develop new predictive models, diagnoses and treatments that will directly benefit patients.” In the center, students of medicine, engineering and computer science will learn how such “big data” interact. Physicians, biomedical scientists, biomedical engineers and computer scientists will together develop a unique capacity for creating and annotating the vast amounts of quantitative biomedical data embedded within the human organism. “The James H. Cummings Foundation is pleased to provide support for the Structural Science Learning Center, which is part of this world class academic health center being built on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus,” says Charles F. Kreiner Jr., president of the foundation’s board of directors. “We believe the efficiencies in the delivery of care that will result from the new medical school and its partners, along with the cutting edge research around predictive modeling systems to support personalized medicine, are vital to the health and wellness of Western New York’s citizens and will contribute to the economic development of this community.” The SSLC will combine the expertise and computing power of UB’s schools of medicine and engineering, the Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, the Clinical and Translational Research Center and the Institute for Healthcare Informatics.
U B M E D V I TA L L I N E S
PHASE 2 OF CONSTRUCTION BEGINS ON NEW MEDICAL SCHOOL Largest medical education building under construction in the nation
The State University of New York Construction Fund has awarded LPCiminelli the bid for the second phase of construction for the new School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The contract for phase 2—the largest by far of three construction phases—is worth approximately $226 million. At 628,000 square feet, the $375 million project at Main and High streets is the largest medical education building under construction in the nation. The design includes a six-story atrium, classrooms and laboratories. It will be constructed on top of a new Allen/Hospital Metro station, a feature that accentuates community connections and promotes sustainable transportation options. The building is on track to be certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold, demonstrating UB’s commitment to environmental and energy stewardship. UB is expanding the class size within the medical school from 140 to 180 students. It also is recruiting 100 new faculty members to teach in the school. The new faculty will bring muchneeded clinical specialties to the region, as well as training programs in important new medical fields.
Next steps in construction Work on phase 2 is expected to begin this spring. It involves construction of the building’s façade and roof; completion of all plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems; and completion of all interior finishes. Phase 2 is expected to continue until the completion of the building in 2017. Some of the furniture and equipment will be moved into the building in fall 2016 in phase 3 of the project. Third- and fourth-year medical students will start attending classes and labs in the new building during the spring of 2017, with all medical students expected in by August 2017.
Creating an Academic Health Center Building a new medical school in downtown Buffalo will be a defining moment in UB’s history and in the development of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Third- and fourth-year medical students will start attending classes and labs in the new building during the spring of 2017, with all medical students expected in by August 2017. The university’s long-term strategy for a UB Downtown Campus is focused on the relocation of the UB medical school to downtown Buffalo to help form the region’s first comprehensive academic health center. Anchored by UB’s new medical school, in partnership with Kaleida Health, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Hauptman Woodward Medical Research Institute, the academic health center combines superior medical education, clinical care and research to create a dynamic environment focused on improving patient care and health outcomes in Western New York. It will create a comprehensive, interconnected teaching, research and clinical care environment for the community, faculty and students. The new medical school is the first project to have received NYSUNY Challenge Grant funding provided by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo when he signed the NYSUNY 2020 bill into law in 2011. Construction of the medical school will be funded by private philanthropy and state support. Take a virtual tour of the new School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences by visiting medicine.buffalo.edu/ newschool.
GIFT FROM RUSSELL SALVATORE SUPPORTS ACADEMIC MEDICINE Russell Salvatore, owner of Russell’s Steaks, Chops & More, located in Depew, N.Y., has given $600,000 to name the Russell J. Salvatore Student Lounge in the new medical school. “My career has always been about hospitality, and I am thrilled to be able to add UB medical students and residents to my guest list,” says Salvatore. “I gave this gift because this community means everything to me, and I believe that the medical school moving downtown is good for health care in Buffalo and good for our region. “My hope is that my gift to the new medical school will provide a place of rest and relaxation for students and residents, and that they will carry with them happy memories of the time they spend there as they move on in their careers.”
Rose Berkun, MD ’92, and medical students recently gathered to celebrate the gift with Salvatore and to present him with a shovel from the school’s groundbreaking. Pictured from left: Schervin Badkhshan, ’16, Steven Gangloff, ’16, Michael Bisogno,’15, Jaime Sklar, ’16, Arielle Bokhour, ’17, Diva Wilson, ’17, Michael Cohen, ’16, Russell Salvatore, Rose Berkun, MD, Ryan Young, ’18, Chelsea Recor, ’18, Alexandra Taffany, ’17, Dan Kuhr, ’17, Peter Ackerman, ’16, William Stendardi, ’16, Melissa Hoffman, ’15, Peter Laub, ’16, Aleksandr Kalininskiy, ’15, Yusef Syed, ’17.
U B M E D V I TA L L I N E S
HEARST FOUNDATIONS ENDORSE MOMENTUM IN BUFFALO The Hearst Foundations have joined the medical school’s Circle of Visionaries with a gift of $100,000 to support construction of the new UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. UB president Satish K. Tripathi thanked the foundations’ board of directors for their “generous commitment,” adding that “UB is fortunate to have the Hearst Foundations as strong partners in this extraordinary opportunity for Western New York.” Nancy H. Nielsen, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for health policy at the medical school, added her thanks: “The Hearst Foundations’ generous commitment is a significant show of support for UB. We thank them for joining us to create a world-class academic health center that promotes collaboration in biomedical
education, research and patient care.” The Office of Medical Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement has established the Circle of Visionaries to recognize supporters who have made gifts of $100,000 or more toward the medical school campaign (see related article on page 26). All Circle of Visionaries members will be recognized on a special donor wall to be located in the main lobby of the new medical school. For information about the Circle of Visionaries, please contact Kim Venti at (716) 829-2773; firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit giving.buffalo.edu/visionaries.
BERGER WINS NATIONAL HONOR
Roseanne C. Berger, MD, senior associate dean for graduate medical education, will be one of three leaders nationwide honored with a 2015 Parker J. Palmer Courage to Lead award. The award from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) recognizes outstanding leadership, management, innovation and improvement of residency and fellowship programs. For more than two decades, Berger has overseen 63 University at Buffalo-sponsored medical specialty training programs. The vast majority—60 UB programs with 756 residents—are accredited by the ACGME. “Dr. Berger is an indispensable member of our school leadership team,” says Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “Her initiatives have changed the way we approach medical education at this university and have national ramifications. Her leadership style values inclusion and collaboration and the importance of the individual to the success of the program.” Berger will receive her award Feb. 27 during the 2015 ACGME Annual Educational Conference in San Diego, Calif. To read more, go to www.medicine.buffalo.edu and search “Berger.”
Photo by Sandra Kicman
Leadership in Graduate Medical Education
CLASSES OF 1974 AND 2004 STEP UP TO HONOR MEMORIES Class gifts name seats in the new medical school a success, with 43 individuals giving more than $27,000 to name a seat in the new medical school. Like her fellow alumni, PleskowWeisman says, “I was happy to donate.” She also was proud to be a member of one of the two classes that stepped forward during the 2014 Reunion Weekend to make gifts that named medical school seats. The other was the Class of 1974, to Julie Baker which another Pleskow—Heather’s father, Sanford Pleskow, MD, a staff physician at Invision Health, Williamsville—belongs. The Class of 1974 gave a total of $25,000 in gifts from 37 individuals. “Many of my classmates contributed because this was our 45th reunion, and we wanted to give back to the medical school,” Pleskow says. “It was worth the effort. I was not surprised that we accomplished this because we are all proud to be UB medical school alumni.” “These two classes rose to the occasion, supporting the tradition of reunion giving and acknowledging how important gifts are to the new medical school,” says Jennifer Britton, director of constituent and alumni engagement for the school.
Photo by Joseph Cascio
Everyone can call to mind a memorable classmate from his or her medical school days. For the Class of 2004, this person is Julie Baker, MD, PhD—someone who was admired and befriended by many, but now is missed. When members of the Class of 2004 first met to organize a class gift for the new UB medical school, Michael Gough, MD, suggested naming the gift in memory of Baker, who died in 2011. Gough and his fellow reunion committee members committed to making donations themselves to kick off the class gift effort. “Once it was suggested, everyone thought it was a great idea,” recalls Heather Pleskow-Weisman, MD, an allergist/immunologist in Niagara Falls. Baker, a native of Buffalo, began her medical school career with the Class of 2004, but earned her degree in 2007, having taken off several years to complete her doctorate in epidemiology. She was completing her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Women and Infants Hospital at Brown University when she died of complications of H1N1 and pneumonia at the age of 39. Baker would have graduated that June and was planning to return to Buffalo to work as a physician-researcher for women’s reproductive and mental health issues. Before completing an MD/ PhD, she earned bachelor’s degrees in economics and nursing and a master’s in epidemiology, all from UB. She already had received more than a dozen honorary awards for clinical and scientific work and had authored more than 20 peer-reviewed scientific publications. The campaign for gifts to the Class of 2004 Julie Baker Fund was
Class of 2004 reunion committee members, from left: Jason Pacos, MD, Jason Hoffman, MD, Nicole Gothgen, MD, Penelope Blackman-Lawson, MD, Heather Pleskow-Weisman, MD, Michael Gough, MD, and Anthony Winkowski, MD
U B M E D V I TA L L I N E S
Jerald A. Bovino, MD ’71, a pioneer in the field of vitreoretinal and macular surgery, was presented the 2014 Lucien Howe Medal for outstanding achievement in ophthalmology. The prestigious award, jointly conferred by the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the Buffalo Ophthalmology Society, is named in honor of Lucien Howe, MD, who began practice in Buffalo in 1874 and founded the Buffalo Eye and Ear Infirmary in 1876. In addition to his private practice, Howe served as professor of ophthalmology at the then-University of Buffalo from 1878 to 1909. The Howe medal, first presented in 1928, was one of a number of awards he established to recognize contributions in ophthalmology. From left: James Reynolds, MD ’78, professor and chair of the UB Department of “Past awardees of the Lucien Howe Ophthalmology and head of the Ross Eye Institute; D. Jackson Coleman, MD ’60, a past Medal reads like a list of ‘who’s who’ in recipient of the award; Jerald A. Bovino, MD ’71, the 2014 recipient of the Lucien Howe ophthalmology,” says James Reynolds, Medal; and Thomas R. Elmer Jr., MD ’97, president, Buffalo Ophthalmology Society. MD ’78, chair of the UB Department of Ophthalmology and head of the Ross Eye Institute. Bovino invented the intraoperative use of the laser founders of the vitreoretinal surgical specialty. during retinal detachment surgery and wrote and edited Bovino, a retired professor of ophthalmology at the the first textbook on macular surgery. Medical College of Ohio, is a founder of the Vitreous Society In 2007, he was presented the Zivojnovic Honor Award and the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS). The by the European Vitreoretinal Society. He is the first ASRS is the largest organization in the specialty, with more American ever to win this international award, which than 2,000 members in 100 countries. was established to recognize Relya Zivojnovic, one of the
BOVINO RECEIVES LUCIEN HOWE MEDAL
ORTHOPAEDIC EXCELLENCE RECOGNIZED AT BUFFALO GENERAL MEDICAL CENTER Kaleida Health’s Buffalo General Medical Center has been named by U.S. News & World Report 2014-15 as a high performer in orthopaedics. The hospital, which is a teaching affiliate of the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, was the only facility in the Buffalo area to receive this designation. “I am very pleased to learn of this recognition of orthopaedics at the Buffalo General Medical Center,” said Kenneth Krackow, MD, UB professor of orthopaedics and chief of orthopaedics at Buffalo General Medical Center.
“Many orthopaedic surgeons visit our facility to learn from our staff about new techniques and to simply stay current on what is cuttingedge in orthopaedics. I am certain that my staff is very proud to be so selected.” U.S. News publishes Best Hospitals to help guide patients who need a high level of care because they face particularly difficult surgery, a challenging condition, or extra risk because of age or multiple health problems. Objective measures such as patient survival and safety data, the adequacy of nurse staffing levels and other data largely determined the rankings in most specialties.
GATES VASCULAR INSTITUTE NAMED A TOP HOSPITAL FOR HEART SURGERY Consumer Reports has named the Kaleida Health’s Gates Vascular Institute as one of the top 15 hospitals in the nation for coronary bypass and aortic valve surgeries. This achievement ranks Gates Vascular Institute—a teaching affiliate of the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences—in the top three percent of cardiovascular programs nationally.
CONSTRUCTION BEGUN ON JOHN R. OISHEI CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL In November, Kaleida Health began construction on the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital located on Ellicott Street on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The $270 million project will replace the current Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo on Bryant Street and consolidate services in a 12-floor, 183-bed, free-standing hospital. Expected to open in 2017, the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital will be an integral part of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. It will link to the new UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Buffalo General Medical Center, Gates Vascular Institute, the UB Clinical Translational and Research Center, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and more. “The building of the Oishei Children’s Hospital
is embraced by the entire staff at Women and Children’s Hospital—and the community at large—because it will have a profound impact on all of Western New York,” says Teresa Quattrin, MD, A. Conger Goodyear Professor and Chair of the UB Department of Pediatrics and pediatrician-in-chief at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. “This new facility will ensure that children and their mothers across the region will continue to receive outstanding care.” Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo is the only access point for pediatric critical care, Level III neonatal intensive care and Level 1 pediatric trauma care in Western New York.
Expected to open in 2017, the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital will be an integral part of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the Gates Vascular Institute cardiac team,” says M. Hashmat Ashraf, MD, chief of service of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at Kaleida Health. “Every single member of the cardiac team, from technologists to nurses to anesthesiologists, plays an integral part in providing the high-quality cardiac care for which we’ve been recognized.” The Consumer Reports’ ranking is derived from data obtained from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, an international organization representing thousands of cardiothoracic clinicians and researchers. The society’s goal is to ensure the best possible outcomes for surgeries performed within the chest.
ENGINEERS AS PARTNERS IN HEALTH CARE INNOVATION NEW BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT FOSTERS TRANSLATIONAL RESEARCH STORY BY S.A. UNGER PHOTOS BY DOUGLAS LEVERE
Albert H. Titus, PhD, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, is leading efforts to organize collaborations between biomedical engineers and biosciences faculty at UB.
hen physicians and biomedical scientists at UB talk about how they are helping to “engineer” solutions to difficult health care problems, it’s not just a turn of phrase. Since 2010, when UB established its Department of Biomedical Engineering as a joint effort between the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, a veritable wish list of collaborations has sprung up between engineers and biosciences faculty across the university. The UB medical school and its academic health center partners on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus consider it part of their core mission to improve standards of care in medicine—either by making incremental changes to treatments or by devising completely new ones. It is this push to improve care that defines “translational” research, an effort in which physicians, scientists—and now biomedical engineers—work side by side to take discoveries in the laboratory and apply them as rapidly as possible to real-world medical care. “The marriage between engineering and medicine is essential to translational medicine in the 21st century,” says Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Cain has a long history of collaborating with biomedical engineers to further his own research in cardiac electrophysiology, and he was a prime mover in launching the new department along with Harvey Stenger, PhD, then dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In 2009, their efforts were catalyzed when UB received a $3 million grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation to help fund the establishment of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Cain, who serves as a professor in the new department, knows firsthand that biomedical engineering is a vibrant and growing field that gives UB and its health care partners a much-needed edge at a time when competition for grants and top students and faculty is fierce. Liesl Folks, PhD, MBA, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, notes that the Department of Biomedical Engineering couldn’t have been established at a better time. “The field of biomedical engineering is
burgeoning, and the demand for graduates is tremendous,” she says. “And when these graduates enter the workplace, they are helping to develop new medical technologies and businesses that benefit local and national industry.”
GROWTH SURPASSING ALL EXPECTATIONS Albert H. Titus, PhD, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, says that enrollment for the new department has surpassed all expectations. “Being an engineer, I initially drew up all sorts of charts to forecast growth, but what we have found is that even our somewhat optimistic projections underestimated the demand.” Undergraduate enrollment has climbed steadily, starting with 56 students in 2010 and reaching 250 in 2014, says Titus, whose efforts were crucial to guiding UB through the state approval process required to establish the department. In 2014, the undergraduate degree program was reviewed for the first time by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and received “high praise,” according to Folks. The master’s and PhD programs, which were approved by the state in 2012, also have grown steadily and are drawing students from around the world. The quality of the students in all the degree programs couldn’t be higher, says Titus. “The program is attracting students whose qualifications put them at the top of all students admitted to UB. Some of the best high school students are now looking at biomedical engineering as a career.” The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for biomedical engineers will jump 27 percent through 2022, a rate much higher than most occupations. The bureau also reports that the median salary in the United States for biomedical engineers with a bachelor’s degree is $86,960.
MOTIVATED TO HELP PEOPLE While these statistics are compelling, they don’t tell the whole story about what motivates students to enter the program, Titus notes.
“The students are intrigued by the opportunity to take the problem-solving skills of an engineer and apply them to the life sciences. They can see the direct application to health care and the real benefits to people,” he says. “I think that is a key driver for them—they want to help make a difference in people’s lives.” Michael Hill, a PhD student in the department, works in the lab of his mentor, Debanjan Sarkar, PhD, researching problems associated with tissue engineering. A native of Earlville, NY, Hill (pictured opposite) completed his undergraduate studies at UB, where he initially declared a major in mechanical and aerospace engineering, but switched to biomedical engineering when the new program was started. “I really liked my intro —Albert H. Titus, PhD, chair, classes in mechanical and Biomedical Engineering aerospace engineering,” Hill says, “but in my free time, just out of interest, I would read about biological subjects. So I figured biomedical engineering would be a better way to go, and once I got into it, I liked it a lot. You can take a physical approach to biological questions, but at the same time, there’s also a strong drive toward application—making a product that can actually be used to help people.”
“The students are intrigued by the opportunity to take the problem-solving skills of an engineer and apply them to the life sciences. They can see the direct application to health care and the real benefits to people.”
ACADEMIC AND INDUSTRIAL COLLABORATIONS When the department was established, 14 full-time faculty at UB who had funded research in biomedical engineering were invited to join the program and were given dual appointments in biomedical engineering and their home department, which ranged from medicine to electrical engineering. “As the department has grown, so has our faculty,” Titus says. “We now have eight tenure track faculty who are dedicated exclusively or primarily to biomedical engineering and we are recruiting more.” Affiliated faculty in the medical school and in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences also play a crucial role in the department by supervising students, serving as mentors and participating in research collaborations. Biomedical engineering faculty also collaborate with the UB Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology on the Buffalo Niagara
Medical Campus. The center fosters the growth of new life sciences companies and helps existing companies in the region’s already robust medical device industry to create new or improved product lines by providing research and development expertise. In addition, department faculty work with an industrial advisory board to explore research collaborations and student internship opportunities with local and national companies.
WESTERN NEW YORK’S BEST AND BRIGHTEST Emily Brooks, a native of Buffalo, is a PhD student in the program and a 2014 recipient of a Prosperity Scholarship, awarded annually by the Prentice Family Foundation to Western New York’s “best and brightest students.” A dedicated athlete, Brooks (pictured on cover), was president and co-captain of the Women’s Rugby Club while an undergraduate at UB. Currently she serves as a graduate assistant in the Kenneth A. Krackow M.D. Orthopaedic Research Laboratory at UB, where her mentor is Mark Ehrensberger, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering. Her research focuses on the electrochemical characterization of biomaterials for orthopaedic and sports medicine applications. The overall goal, she says, is to ensure that “the materials we use for prosthetic devices are long lasting and allow people to do what they want without restriction on motion or activity level. “Hopefully this will allow people to live an active lifestyle longer—something that I am passionate about.” Brooks, who is considering a career in academia, is a member of UB’s Collaborative Learning and Integrated Mentoring in the Biosciences (CLIMB) program, open to students in all PhD programs in science, engineering, technology and math disciplines (see related article on page 22). “The CLIMB program has been a great opportunity for me to improve on professional development, and it’s helped me learn more about academia,” Brooks says. “I’ve had help with things such as grant writing, and I’ve been able to mentor a group of undergraduates doing research, so it’s been a very good experience for me.” Brooks could have gone elsewhere to pursue a doctorate in biomedical engineering, but she is convinced she made the right choice to stay at UB. “It’s a new program, but a lot of opportunities have come along with that,” she says. “I’m happy I decided to stay at UB and try it out.” To learn more about research in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, visit engineering.buffalo.edu/ biomedical.
GROWING ORGANS AND TISSUES FOR TRANSPLANTATION Over the last decade, the gap has widened sharply between the number of patients needing lifesaving organ and tissue transplants and the availability of donors. In addition, many conditions involving damage to cartilage and bone tissues cannot be effectively treated, leaving patients to suffer with chronic pain and disability. To address these urgent problems, Debanjan Sarkar, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, is exploring ways to build new organs and replace diseased tissues using artificially engineered systems. Sarkar focuses his research on developing synthetic materials that provide an environment conducive for cells to grow and mature into tissues. One of the primary challenges to growing tissues outside the human body “is how to grow the cells so that they are organized into functionally effective three-dimensional structures,” Sarkar explains. He emphasizes that while synthetic biomaterials must provide structural support to cells, more importantly, “they
need to be able to deliver signals that make it possible for communication to be maintained between the cells and the synthetic matrix throughout the entire regeneration process.” Currently, Sarkar and his team are exploring ways to regenerate bone and cartilage tissues from stem cells using polymeric biomaterials. “While bone and cartilage are very different, the composite nature of their tissue matrices have common underlying characteristics,” Sarkar explains. He reports that his group has successfully designed polymers that can mimic both the structure and function of the composite character of these matrices and so can properly guide the stem cells into tissue structure. Furthermore, the materials are nontoxic and biodegradable, so they leave no residue after the regeneration process is completed. The strategies developed by Sarkar and his team have been validated in animal model studies done in collaboration with researchers in the UB School of Dental Medicine. “Preliminary results show that the biomaterials we are developing have significant promise for treating bone defects, degenerative bone diseases and arthritic cartilage,” Sarkar says.
CANCER DRUGS DELIVERED BY NANOBALLOONS Chemotherapeutic drugs excel at fighting cancer, but they are not so efficient at getting where they need to go. They often interact with blood, bone marrow and other healthy bodily systems, which dilutes the drugs and causes harmful side effects. Jonathan Lovell, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, is developing a better delivery method by encapsulating the drugs in nanoballoons that pop open and deliver concentrated doses of medicine when struck by a red laser. Roughly 1,000 times thinner than human hair, nanoballoons are modified liposomes consisting of porphyrin, an organic compound, and phospholipid, a fat similar to vegetable oil. Like conventional chemotherapy, they would be delivered to patients intravenously. “Why PoP-liposomes, or nanoballoons, open in response to an otherwise harmless red laser is still a bit of a mystery to us, but we have definitely unearthed a new and unique phenomenon,” says Lovell. “Its potential for improving how we treat cancer is immense.” In experiments performed with mice, Lovell hits the
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nanoballoons with a red laser at the target site in the body, which triggers them to pop open and release the drugs. As soon as the laser is turned off, the nanoballoons close, taking in proteins and molecules that might induce cancer growth. Hypothetically, physicians could then retrieve the nanoballoons by drawing blood or taking a biopsy and thus obtain a chemical snapshot of the tumor’s environment, something that is currently very difficult to do using standard technologies. Lovell will continue fundamental studies to better understand why the treatment works so well in destroying tumors in mice and to optimize the process. Human trials could start within five years, he says. Lovell’s work is supported by the National Institutes of Health, which has awarded him grants from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, as well as its Early Independence Award Program, which funds high-risk, high-reward research. To learn more about this research and about an innovative “nanojuice” technology that Lovell is developing to improve diagnosis of gastrointestinal ailments, go to buffalo.edu/news and search “Lovell.” —Cory Nealon
“SMART” DEVICES FOR EARLY DETECTION AND PREVENTION Our bodies constantly emit signals about our health and well being, but we are not very adept at capturing or reading them. Methods we currently use to gather this data rely on cumbersome or intrusive technologies that can often be rendered ineffective by a forgetful or noncompliant patient. Albert H. Titus, PhD, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, focuses his research on developing bioinstruments that aim to circumvent these obstacles by functioning seamlessly, or even invisibly, “in, on or around the human body to improve human health.” Titus and his collaborators are working “to design microchips that can capture any sort of signal you can pull from the body” and to create apps that automatically store and chart this data on smartphones or complex monitoring systems. The goal, he says, is early detection and prevention of disease. Titus is also exploring the development of implantable sensing devices that are as small as one centimeter by one millimeter, yet have enormous processing capacity. Looking to the future, he asks: “If devices we now implant in the body aren’t ‘smart,’ can we make them smart? Can we make a stent that not only keeps an artery open, but also collects and
transmits data so physicians know when it’s not functioning?” While acknowledging that these devices create a host of new problems to solve, like biocompatibility, he says “It’s part of what makes this work fun.” Currently, one of Titus’s projects involves a collaboration with Jessica Castner, PhD, RN, assistant professor of nursing, to create a “smarter” pocket spirometer, a device given to patients with respiratory conditions to help them measure the outflow of their breath in an effort to pre-empt exacerbations. “Computerized pocket spirometers already exist,” notes Castner, “so what we’re working on are incremental improvements designed to be nonintrusive and to take into account human nature, like forgetting to record data or losing it. We’re also adding ‘smart’ features that, for example, alert asthma patients to early cold, flu or allergy symptoms or to environmental triggers such as weather or pollen counts.” Given advances in microelectronics, Titus says that bioinstruments have much potential to improve health care in the 21st century. Titus also is collaborating with a local medical device company, Sentient Science, to develop a wearable device that could help soldiers on the battlefield or prevent someone from having a heart attack. To learn more, go to buffalo.edu/news and search “Albert Titus.”
A L B E R T H. T I T U S, P H D, A N D J E S S I C A C A S
ERADICATING PATHOGENS ON ORTHOPAEDIC IMPLANTS The number of orthopaedic procedures requiring metallic implants is increasing. As the number of these implants rise, so do infections, which result in extended treatments and hospital stays, increased morbidity and mortality, and higher costs to the health care system. One of the factors contributing to these infections is micro-organisms that mature into biofilms on the implants and become highly resistant to antibiotics. The current gold standard for treating such infections involves removing the implant, administering local antibiotics until the infection is cleared and then replacing the implant—an approach that further exacerbates patients’ suffering by leaving them with biomechanical deficiencies until a second device is implanted. Mark Ehrensberger, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Kenneth A. Krackow M.D. Orthopaedic Research Laboratory at UB, is collaborating with Anthony Campagnari, PhD, professor of microbiology/ immunology and medicine, to develop a technology that aims to eradicate these biofilms without having to remove the implant. The team’s innovative research focuses on disrupting the biofilms of problematic pathogens by delivering electrical
stimulation directly to titanium implants. “Titanium is a passivated metal—meaning it is covered with an oxide film—and a variety of its interfacial properties are voltage-dependent,” Ehrensberger explains. “This provides us a mechanism to electrochemically disrupt interactions between bacterial biofilms and the surface of the implants.” While Ehrensberger and Campagnari have found that electrical stimulation alone reduces biofilm infections, they have reported that the biofilm is even more effectively eradicated when the treatment is delivered in combination with systemic antibiotic therapy. More compelling yet is their discovery that prophylactic delivery of their novel electrical stimulation prevents infections from becoming established in the first place. “We are quite excited about this technology, as it may provide clinicians with an effective treatment option that does not require the challenges of the two-staged revision,” says Ehrensberger. “Furthermore, we believe the therapeutic and prophylactic effectiveness of this treatment is broadly applicable to most of the passivated metals utilized for orthopaedic implants.”
FASTER MRI SCANS FOR “REAL-TIME” IMAGING Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has revolutionized radiology because of its unique capacity to picture not only structures within the body, but also functions and physiological processes. As new applications for MRI have been developed, however, faster imaging methods are needed, especially in three-dimensional imaging. Leslie Ying, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering, focuses her research on finding ways to increase this speed so as to enable “real-time” observation. “The issue with speed is that the patient has to stay in the scanner—motionless—for a period of time,” Ying says. Sometimes that means patients are asked to hold their breath; at other times, physicians may want to look at an organ that can’t be stilled, such as a beating heart. Ying’s method uses a complicated algorithm to generate a quality image from only a small portion of the data that is commonly collected. A lot of data in an image—whether an MRI scan or a vacation photo—is redundant, she says. In digital photography, people often compress image data with a file format such as JPEG, thus allowing for a smaller file size with minimal loss of quality.
Ying’s method is analogous to that, except that it predicts image redundancies in a process called compressed sensing. “The idea is that we don’t acquire all the information in the first place,” she says. “We anticipate what compression will do and we only look for those points.” The technique developed by Ying has improved the speed of scanning, and her studies have validated the algorithms she uses, demonstrating proof of concept. Ying and her team are collaborating with colleagues at GE Healthcare in Wisconsin to test her method in an MRI scanner. “We want to see really how long it takes,” she says. “A few seconds? A minute? We need to be able to demonstrate to vendors what we can offer.” At UB, Ying collaborates with John Canty Jr., MD ’79, Albert and Elizabeth Rekate Professor and chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine; Umesh Sharma, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine; Robert Zivadinov, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and director of the Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center; and Ferdinand Schweser, PhD, assistant professor of neurology. To read more about this research, go to buffalo.edu/news and search “Ying.” —Jill U Adams
S L I E Y I N G, P H D
A SURGEON WHO RECONSTRUCTS BODIES, AND LIVES Branko Bojovic, MD ’02, pioneering facial transplant surgeon By Mark SoMMer
lipping burgers, waiting tables, serving drinks and lending an ear. That’s the background Branko Bojovic, MD ’02, credits with giving him a foundation for his path-breaking career in plastic and reconstructive surgery. A native of Lackawanna, NY, Bojovic (pronounced boy-oh-vich) learned those and other restaurant skills while helping run the family-owned eatery and tavern near Ralph Wilson Stadium. “I ran around helping with cooking, washing dishes or serving and enjoyed talking to people and listening to their stories or problems,” he says. “I think those things made medicine a natural choice for me. As a plastic surgeon, I like variety, where every day is a little bit different and the pace changes.” In June 2014, the 37-year-old Bojovic was named clinical director of the face transplantation team at the University of Maryland Medical Center. He also is an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In March 2012, Bojovic was part of a five-man team headed by Eduardo Rodriguez, MD, DDS, that performed the most extensive full face transplant to date. The 36-hour procedure, which took place at the medical center’s R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, involved transplanting all anterior scalp, facial and anterior neck skin, upper and lower jaw bones, anterior tongue and upper and lower teeth onto a 37-year-old man whose lower face was all but destroyed by an accidental shotgun blast 15 years earlier.
Although each team member was trained to perform all parts of the operation, Bojovic was primarily responsible for removing the recipient’s face, scarred and disfigured from previous operations, in preparation for the new face being applied. The transplant was a long time in the making. It included 18 months of practice operations on cadavers and a practice procurement to demonstrate proof of concept. The latter, done “with the gracious permission of a donor family,” involved a patient who donated solid organs. “I would say it was the most technically challenging and complex procedure I have ever been a part of,” says Bojovic. Not surprisingly, it was also among the most satisfying. “It’s very rewarding to see the impact you can have on people’s lives and, in doing so, give back to people the knowledge and learning you’ve acquired.” The recipient, Richard Norris, lived a reclusive existence in rural southwest Virginia before the operation, wearing a mask in public and struggling with his disfigured appearance. Since the operation, he has reintegrated socially and is considering a career in information systems. “I would say the majority of people wouldn’t even know he had a facial transplant,” says Bojovic. “He’s done extraordinarily well—certainly beyond everybody’s expectations.” Tight-Knit Community Bojovic grew up in a tight-knit Serbian community of about 250 families in Lackawanna, also home to Croats, Macedonians, Poles, Italians and Yemenis who
Samuel Gurmu/University of Maryland Medical Center
“I was thrilled to be admitted there. UB is the top public medical school in the SUNY system, and it was a wonderful place to learn and train. We have had a lot of people go on to do great things, and that says a lot about how UB prepared us.”
came to find work in the city’s now-shuttered steel mills. At the center of the Serb community is St. Stephen Serbian Orthodox Church, where Bojovic served as an altar boy, sang in the choir and performed in a music and dance folk group, the St. Stephen’s Tamburitzans, from kindergarten through medical school. He played accordion, —Branko Bojovic, MD ’02 standup bass and the tambura, a guitar-like instrument. At Lackawanna High School, a stone’s throw from the church—and his home—he played trumpet in the school band. “I was running back and forth doing music all the time. You would wake up and hear it in the morning, or go somewhere where it was happening,” recalls Bojovic. He was also athletic and a member of the school’s tennis, basketball and swim teams. When Bojovic was 13 years old and his sister, 8, their father died suddenly, which thrust Bojovic into a new role
in the family. He helped his mother operate the restaurant, adding bartending and landscaping to his responsibilities as he got older. “Branko was always very serious and very singleminded,” says Father Rastko Trbuhovich of St. Stephen’s, who has known Bojovic since he was a boy. “He applied himself everywhere. He was very respectful of other kids and adults, almost formal in his relationships. “I’m not surprised that he is successful,” he adds. “He is very much a child of this community, and we all feel close to him.” Bojovic’s interest in medicine was sparked in his teens by an older cousin in medical school who was “like a big brother to me” and by an interest and proficiency in science. After high school, he attended Canisius College on scholarship, majoring in biochemistry and excelling academically. In his sophomore year he received notification
“Branko is a wonderfully well-grounded person who wants to help those around him with something he loves to do. There are not many people in the world who have the kind of future he has in plastic surgery.” —Michael Denk, MD ’86, former head of plastic surgery, Buffalo General Medical Center
A Life-Changing Lecture It was while he was at UB medical school that Bojovic attended a lecture that changed his life. Michael Denk, MD ’86, who at the time was head of plastic surgery at Buffalo General Medical Center, spoke on campus about Operation Smile and the humanitarian work it provides overseas correcting facial disfigurements. Bojovic became president of the campus group, and as a senior in 2001 went to China for two weeks to help surgeons treat children and adults with cleft lips and palates and other deformities. The experience cemented his decision to make a career of plastic surgery. “Branko is a wonderfully well-grounded person who wants to help those around him with something he loves to do,” says Denk, now a plastic surgeon in Virginia Beach, Va. “There are not many people in the world who have the kind of future he has in plastic surgery.” Bojovic, whose expertise is in adult and pediatric craniofacial surgery and microsurgery, completed his general surgery residency at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and his plastic surgery residency at the Harvard Combined Program/Harvard Medical School. He then completed a craniofacial surgery and microsurgery fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center’s R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, where he was invited to join the staff.
reintegrated into society,” Bojovic says. Over the years, Bojovic has forged “a close and I think special relationship” with Norris, whom he continues to see monthly for checkups and monitoring. Erika Brannock is another high-profile patient whom Bojovic has treated. In 2013, Brannock, now 30, was standing at the Boston Marathon finish line, cheering on her mother, when a bomb exploded a short distance away. She had to have her left leg amputated below the knee and was in danger of losing her lower right leg. A Baltimore resident, Brannock was eventually transferred from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to the University of Maryland, where Bojovic and Rodriguez operated on her, taking muscle and tissue from the left side of her body and attaching it to her right leg, from ankle to mid-calf. In the months that followed, Bojovic operated on her several more times and today the leg is almost completely healed. Brannock can’t say enough about Bojovic’s care and compassion, explaining that he even gave her his cell number to call anytime with questions or concerns. “He is extremely dedicated and connected with his patients,” she says. “He’s very detailed and thorough, and he’s got by far the best bedside manner I’ve ever seen from anyone in the medical field.” Rodriguez, Bojovic’s mentor and former partner, who left the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 2013 to chair the Department of Plastic Surgery at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, praises Bojovic as an unusually talented physician. “Branko has received incredible medical and surgical training, and is one of the greatest team members I have had the opportunity to work with,” says Rodriguez. “His ability to care for patients would be difficult for anyone to exceed.”
A True Privilege Bojovic’s plastic surgery experience extends from head to foot, but the full facial transplant was a different order of magnitude. The historic operation on Richard Norris allowed the five-member team only three 15-minute breaks, but the preparation and adrenaline made it doable. “It was the culmination of all the things I had learned. It was a true privilege to be involved in that kind of concerted effort and to help someone with an extraordinarily difficult problem get back to a point in life where he could be
The Village that Raised Him Bojovic returns to Lackawanna about every four months to visit family and friends. He has paid close attention to the new UB medical school being built on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus downtown, keeping updated through alumni publications and by touring the site during his 10th-year medical school reunion two years ago. Bojovic says the plans for the new school are “fantastic” and is excited by what it will mean to concentrate so much health care expertise in a single, dedicated area.
that he had been admitted to the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences through its early assurance program. “I was thrilled to be admitted there,” Bojovic says. “UB is the top public medical school in the SUNY system, and it was a wonderful place to learn and train. We have had a lot of people go on to do great things, and that says a lot about how UB prepared us.”
Erika Brannock, center, who was injured in the Boston Marathon bombing, is reunited with her medical team at the University of Maryland’s R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center. Also pictured, from left: her mother, Carol Downing, and surgeons Helen Hui-Chou, MD, Eduardo Rodriguez, MD, DDS (now chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery at New York University’s Langone Medical Center), Miguel Medina, MD, and Branko Bojovic, MD ’02.
“I think it will be great not only for Buffalo but also for the medical school’s stature—not only within the state but nationally and probably internationally. I’m really looking forward to seeing what kind of success will follow suit,” he says. Bojovic also takes pride in how Serbs in Lackawanna and in Serbia have held him up as a role model. He was “humbled” to be featured recently in a Serbian magazine and to play a role in creating favorable publicity for the Serbian people, still emerging from the horrific sectarian strife that ensued after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Fluent in Serbian, Bojovic visited Serbia for the first time in 2003 and returns regularly to see relatives and new friends and for the chance to be immersed in Serbian culture. In the future, he says he’d like to “give something back” by providing hands-on training, education and seminars for physicians. In all, Bojovic is grateful for the opportunities he has had in his life and for the proverbial village that raised him.
“I am extraordinarily fortunate to be where I am,” he says. “I try to be cognizant of this every day—to recognize and give thanks to those who brought me up and helped me.”
“It was a true privilege to be involved in that kind of concerted effort and to help someone with an extraordinarily difficult problem get back to a point in life where he could be reintegrated into society.” —Branko Bojovic, MD ’02
A TALENT FOR MENTORING TALENT Margarita Dubocovich, PhD, thrives on helping aspiring scientists B y S. a . U n g e r
Margarita Dubocovich, PhD, was born and raised on a farm in the middle of the Argentinian pampas, a vast grassland region she describes as “super-rural.” When she was 3 years old, she was sent to live with her grandmother in a nearby town where she attended kindergarten through third grade at the local school, which, although small, was larger than the two-room schoolhouse she would have attended back home.
rom the start, Dubocovich excelled at learning, and one day her grandmother told her: “Someday you are going to go very far away, and you are going to write me letters.” In the decades that followed, Dubocovich did go far away, propelled by accomplishments in science that have made her an internationally respected pharmacologist and by a talent for building educational programs aimed at assuring that no aspiring young scientist be left behind due to race, gender, ethnicity or humbleness of origin. After a long and fulfilling career that took her to the United Kingdom, France and eventually the United States—where she spent over 26 years on the faculty at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago—Dubocovich could have rested on her laurels and begun to contemplate retirement. Instead, in 2008 she responded to a call from the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to apply for an opening as chair of its Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Following a national search, Dubocovich was offered the position and became the first woman to chair a department in the school. “I feel it would have been a waste for me to retire,” she says. “I know a lot about mentoring faculty and students, and I’m passionate about diversity and increasing excellence in education and research.” At UB, Dubocovich immediately turned her attention to recruiting a new group of talented faculty from around the country, with the first recruit arriving six months after she came and six more following in less than three years. All the new recruits, including an eighth she hired in 2012, are still at UB, winning grants, conducting research and publishing. Dubocovich also wasted no time in reconstructing at UB a highly successful program she built at Northwestern that promotes academic excellence by providing students from
all walks of life with the support they need to adapt and thrive in doctoral programs. Known as the Collaborative Learning and Integrated Mentoring in the Biosciences (CLIMB) Program, it is open to students in all PhD programs in science, engineering, technology and math disciplines. The initiative has since spawned a host of other related programs led by Dubocovich, including the equally successful CLIMB-UP Program, a ten-week summer research experience that is open to undergraduate students from around the country and lays the groundwork for graduate school, especially in fields related to drug discovery and translational science. In 2012, Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences at UB and dean of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, named Dubocovich the inaugural senior associate dean of inclusion and cultural enhancement, a position she continues to hold in addition to serving as chair.
A WELL-MENTORED MENTOR Given Dubocovich’s upbringing, it would be natural to assume that her sensitivity to the challenges faced by students from underrepresented populations grew from her own hard-won struggle to overcome career limitations faced by young women in South America. Ironically, while she did face inbred attitudes that could have thwarted her aspirations, Dubocovich is the first to emphasize that she is the product of world-class mentoring generously offered by men and women who were internationally renowned pharmacologists. This may explain Dubocovich’s infectious and hardcharging confidence, her buoyant energy and sense of humor. She is proud of her rural past and of the lives her parents and grandparents built in Argentina as immigrants from Croatia who worked hard to be self-sufficient farmers.
After completing the third grade in the small town where her grandmother lived, her parents brought her back home, where she attended grades four through seven in the local two-room schoolhouse. Although their parents had a car, Dubocovich and her sister rode to school each day in a horsedrawn buggy, joined by other buggies carrying children from the neighboring farms. “My sister drove, and I opened all the gates,” Dubocovich recalls with a laugh. “It was fun.” Once at school, all the students were taught by one teacher. “So there was a lot of selfstudy. I remember doing the math myself—going through the exercises in the book.” In high school Dubocovich excelled in math and science. Despite this, her teachers and family friends would ask: “Why aren’t you learning to type so you can be a secretary? You’re only going to raise a family, so what do you want with this education?” But Dubocovich knew what she wanted. In high school, she says, she “fell in love with chemistry and physics” and decided she wanted to go on to college. Education in Argentina is free, and over the next decade Dubocovich completed a bachelor of science degree—“the equivalent of a good MS in the United States”—and a doctorate, with a focus on pharmacology, at the University of Buenos Aires School of Natural and Exact Sciences. For a time she lived with her aunt and uncle, whose daughter, a few years older than she, had completed her BS in chemical biology and was working in a laboratory at an area hospital. Her cousin was well connected and opened doors for Dubocovich, eventually helping her to land a position in the laboratory of Solomon Langer, MD, who mentored her through her doctorate and into the early stages of her career. “Sol was internationally known and would go abroad a lot,” Dubocovich says. “He was a really good mentor, too—one of those people who would come into the lab each morning and afternoon and go over the experimental design with me and discuss my findings.”
“Coming to UB has given me the opportunity to contribute to the education and the development of junior scientists as well as to create programs that are attracting and mentoring these super-talented students from all walks of life, which is what diversity is about.” —Margarita Dubocovich, PhD
Dubocovich completed fellowships at the National Research Council and began earning about $40 a month. “I preferred working in the lab and being happy at the end of the day, rather than being unhappy somewhere else and having a lot of money,” she explains. “At that time,” she adds, “most scientists in Argentina were women. Men couldn’t afford it because if they had a family, they couldn’t support them on the salaries, which were very, very low.”
A PROPHECY FULFILLED In 1977, Dubocovich moved to France to work for Langer when he took a job with Synthelabo (after a brief stay in England, where they both worked for Wellcome Research Laboratories). She lived in Paris for three years, learned French and traveled the world. “It was a fantastic experience. I never imagined that I was going to do something like that, and it made me recall what my grandmother had said.” In 1980, Dubocovich attended a meeting in San Francisco, which led to her being recruited to the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. She worked there for two years before being recruited to Northwestern by its chair of pharmacology, Toshio Narahashi, PhD, renowned for his discovery of the nerve blocking action of tetrodotoxin and credited with establishing the modern field of ion channel pharmacology. In the ensuing decades, Dubocovich thrived as a researcher, cementing her reputation as the world’s foremost authority on the brain hormone melatonin and the regulation of melatonin receptors. Her work has significantly broadened understanding of melatonin’s impact on circadian rhythms, sleep disorders and
depression. She also is credited with establishing the pharmacological characteristics and function of melatonin receptor types, which revolutionized the field, as well as pioneering the discovery of prototype melatonin receptors agonist and antagonist agents.
AT HOME AT UB Dubocovich says she couldn’t be more pleased with her tenure at UB and her life in Buffalo. She and her husband have settled in a new home they love and have re-established their lives here. “Coming to UB has given me the opportunity to contribute to the education and the development of junior scientists as well as to create programs that are attracting and mentoring these super-talented students from all walks of life, which is what diversity is about,” she says. Dubocovich credits Dean Cain with helping to make this happen at UB as part of his effort to position the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences as a lead player in the establishment of the region’s first comprehensive academic health center. “Dean Cain is an unbelievable leader,” she says. “He is one of the reasons why I accepted the job here. He knows what a researcher needs and he facilitates getting it, and he knows what chairs need and supports activities that are essential to becoming excellent and even pre-eminent. The changes that he has made here since I came have been amazing.” In recent years, Dubocovich has only gained momentum. She helped UB win a $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund the education of 20 new biomedical and behavioral scientists from
To learn more about the professional development programs described in this article, go to buffalo.edu/climb, or contact Elizabeth Marshall at email@example.com or (716) 829-5219.
underrepresented groups between now and 2016. The prestigious grant—one of only 44 in the U.S.—is part of the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD), a program for research-intensive institutions. In May 2014, her many accomplishments at UB were recognized when she was named a State University of New York (SUNY) Distinguished Professor, the highest rank in the SUNY system. Her dedication is coming to fruition out in the larger world, as well, where students whom she has mentored—such as Ekue B. Adamah-Biassi, PhD—are thriving. “I’m very thankful for the opportunities that were available to me when I was in Margarita’s laboratory,” says AdamahBiassi, who completed his doctorate in pharmacology at UB last summer and is now a research scholar at Wake Forest School of Medicine. “She encouraged me to take advantage of the CLIMB and ISEP (Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership) programs, which set me apart when looking for postdoctoral opportunities.” At this point in her career, nothing is more satisfying to Dubocovich than hearing that students such as Adamah-Biassi feel well prepared for the rigors of a career in the biosciences. “For me, everybody is the same, and I want to see the same things offered to everyone,” she says. “That’s how the mix of diversity comes about. It’s that simple.”
Ekue B. Adamah-Biassi, PhD, a graduate of UB’s CLIMB program, is now a research scholar at Wake Forest School of Medicine. A native of New York, N.Y., Adamah-Biassi was raised in Lome, Togo (West Africa) and completed his undergraduate studies in West Virginia before earning his doctorate in pharmacology at UB.
U B M E D C O L L A B O R AT I O N S
A FAMILY TEAMS UP WITH RESEARCHERS TO BATTLE MS Providing funds to support breakthrough studies led by Fraser Sim, PhD By Lori FergUSon
In some individuals, the body’s immune system starts to attack myelin, the fatty sheath that protects nerve fibers transporting information to and from muscles and the central nervous system. Over time, this destroys the fibers and leads to symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Nearly half a million people in the United States currently suffer from MS, and each year approximately 10,000 new cases are diagnosed. MS has no known cause and, to date, no cure. But if Barbara and Jim Kalec get their wish, this grim fact will change in their lifetime. The Western New York couple, whose daughter Christie suffers from relapsing-remitting MS, has joined forces with Fraser Sim, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology, to change the prognosis for those afflicted by the disease. Sim and his team recently gained worldwide attention when they announced a major discovery that brings researchers closer to the goal of treating MS by transplanting into patients the brain cells that make myelin.
Having watched his father battle the disease for many years, Jim knows how difficult it can be. “My dad would have about two episodes a year,” he recalls. “They would knock him out for a week to 10 days, and then he’d get back on track.” Eventually, the disease progressed to the point where the senior Kalec was forced to take a desk position at the health center, and in 2000 he died. In 2004, the Kalecs’ daughter Christie was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, a form of the disease that causes intermittent episodes that can last a few days or several weeks and may conclude with a full recovery or with lingering neurological deficits. Since her diagnosis, the medications used to treat the disease have improved, and today Christie is able to control her symptoms with oral medications rather than injections. This change has not only been very freeing for their daughter, the Kalecs say, but also has heightened their desire to fund research on the disease.
Fraser Sim, PhD
One Step Closer In June 2014, Sim and his team stirred excitement internationally when they announced that they had identified the single transcription factor, or “master switch”—called SOX10—that initiates the critical myelination process in the brain, a discovery that brings researchers one step closer to the possibility of treating MS by transplanting into patients the brain cells that make myelin. “Now that we have identified SOX10 as an initiator of myelination, we can work on developing a viral or pharmaceutical approach to inducing it in MS patients,” says Sim. “If we could create a small
“We’re confident that Dr. Sim’s work will have a major impact on the treatment of MS down the road, and we’re committed to helping him further his research in whatever way possible. We’re in it for the long haul.”
A Multigenerational Struggle The Kalecs have a long history with UB and an equally long relationship with MS. Jim Kalec’s father, Bernard Kalec, MD, worked in the UB Student Health Center from 1977 to 1995, and suffered from primaryprogressive MS.
Inspired by Christie’s progress, the Kalecs formed the Kalec MS Foundation. They are keen to see their contributions put to use at a local and regional level, and supporting Sim’s research offers them an ideal opportunity to have an impact close to home. “We want to help find a cure,” Barbara says. “Christie is only 30—she has her whole life ahead of her.” In February 2014, shortly after forming their foundation, the Kalecs received an invitation from their local MS chapter to attend a lecture by Sim in which he talked about a drug his team had identified that could improve the potential of human cells to remyelinate brain cells. When the Kalecs heard Sim speak, they were impressed with the passion he exuded for his work. “We knew we wanted to concentrate on research funding, and meeting Fraser really helped to channel our efforts,” says Jim. “We’re confident that Dr. Sim’s work will have a major impact on the treatment of MS down the road,” adds Barbara, “and we’re committed to helping him further his research in whatever way possible. We’re in it for the long haul.”
Barbara, Christie and Jim Kalec
molecule drug that would switch on SOX10, it would be therapeutically important.” Stem cell therapy is seen as having dramatic potential for treating MS, but there are key obstacles, especially the length of time it takes for progenitor cells to turn into oligodendrocytes, the brain’s myelin-making cells. Using currently available methods, it takes many steps and as long as a year to generate a sufficient number of human oligodendrocyte cells to treat a single MS patient, Sim explains. “Ideally, we’d like to get directly to oligodendrocyte progenitors,” he says. “The new results are a stepping stone to the overall goal of being able to take a patient’s skin cells or blood cells and create from them oligodendrocyte progenitors. “If we can find a way to halt the progression of the disease,” he adds, “it becomes much more tolerable for the patient. If you don’t suffer from permanent
disabilities such as loss of bladder function or mobility, you can live a more normal life.” Happy to Be a Part of It The Kalecs’ initial commitment allowed Sim to purchase an upgrade to a microscope. Having the flexibility to apply the funds where they are most needed is an incredible gift in and of itself, Sim explains. “A lot of foundation dollars are pre-allocated for specific purchases, but the Kalecs permitted me to apply the funds where I felt they would be most helpful.” Recently, the Kalecs announced a second, multiyear commitment that brings them into the Circle of Visionaries, which recognizes donors who make commitments of $100,000 or more to the school. Given her personal stake in MS research, Christie Kalec is especially excited about Sim’s advances. She’s been on all of the FDA-approved drugs for stopping the
disease’s progression and at present is doing well; however, she has suffered some optic nerve damage, and the prospect of reversing that injury is heartening. “The remyelination process that Dr. Sim is exploring is fascinating,” she says. “He’s looking at treatments that could restore function and get rid of the symptoms that sometimes occur, with or without an episode. He’s not just looking to stop the disease’s progression, but to restore damaged tissue as well. It’s a very different approach to the treatment of MS. Dr. Sim’s work has the potential to help people with all types of MS, and I’m really happy our family’s foundation can be a part of it.” To support the Multiple Sclerosis Research Fund in Pharmacology and Toxicology, go to giving.buffalo.edu/ms-research. Ellen Goldbaum contributed to this story.
U B M E D C O L L A B O R AT I O N S drug therapies for hepatitis C and heart disease, more effective imaging devices and refinement of surgical techniques.
STUDY VOLUNTEERS AND SUPPORTERS AID RESEARCHERS Clinical Research Center bolstered by gift from the Charles and Mary Bauer Foundation By CoLLeen karUza
Optimists may believe “If you build it, they will come,” but the rationale behind the opening of UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus was more like “We’re here. Let’s build it!” Today, this resource-rich facility, rooted in client need and demand, is fertile ground for the accelerated translation of UB’s innovative research into new and improved therapies. Now two years old, the CTRC, which shares a building with Kaleida Health’s Gates Vascular Institute, serves as a critical resource for UB investigators, trainees and community partners. Experts in translational research, drug development, imaging, biostatistics, informatics and regulatory and ethical standards, among others, are available to provide handson technical support and guidance to researchers. Located in the CTRC is a nine-room outpatient Clinical Research Center (CRC), the “hub” of clinical research at UB. This state-of-the art shared resource provides investigators with the tools they need to conduct efficient, regulation-compliant clinical research studies in alignment with best practices and national standards of excellence, says Timothy F. Murphy, MD, director of the CTRC . The center’s checklist of research support services is exhaustive, and
assistance is available for all types of clinical studies—National Institutes of Health-funded, investigator-initiated, industry-sponsored and multi-institutional collaborations—with plans to support other types of research activity conducted by faculty across UB. Before the CRC opened, UB investigators were essentially on their own to design their studies, write the protocol, learn and interpret regulations, navigate the approval process, accrue patients and collect and analyze the data. Less experienced faculty had no place to turn for help. “Now, with the CRC, we assist younger faculty to build their own infrastructure by providing soup-to-nuts support,” says Murphy. “For them and all UB research faculty, we’re essentially here to enhance the quality and efficiency of their studies through the standardization of policies and procedures.” Currently, the center supports about 70 studies, including those focused on new
Our Way of Giving Back The CRC recently received a significant boost from the Charles and Mary Bauer Foundation, which provided a major gift to support a salary line for a clinical research nurse manager position. “We believe in Buffalo,” says Mary Bauer. “It’s our way of giving back to a community that has been very good to us.” It’s called “giving while living” and some of its well-known proponents include Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. “At least for us, giving while we are alive allows us to witness the impact of our gift and the good it’s doing,” says Charles Bauer, MD ’46, a native of Buffalo. “I had an opportunity to meet Dr. Bauer,” says Kim Brunton, RN, MSN, the center’s clinical research nurse manager. “As a physician, he understands the challenges of advancing research to the stage where it generates successful real-world applications to benefit patients.” Brunton and Pam Anderson, RN, BSN, manager of the clinical trials office, run the day-to-day operations of the CRC. “To get studies launched, meticulous planning and a tremendous amount of time are required,” says Murphy. “The nurse manager works with the principal investigator, determines staffing needs, helps with the design of the protocol and coordination of clinical studies and ensures standards are met and studies are in compliance. Experience and guidance are critical to this position to ensure quality research. “The Bauers’ gift is an investment in our future and our excellence,” he continues. “By supporting a critical salary line, their gift translates into stability of a key position in the CRC. Dr. and Mrs. Bauer have given
“The Bauers’ gift is an investment in our future and our excellence. By supporting a critical salary line, their gift translates into stability of a key position in the Clinical Research Center.” — Timothy F. Murphy, MD, director, Clinical and Translational Research Center
Timothy F. Murphy, MD, and Kim Brunton, RN, MSN
us a huge boost to be successful, particularly during times when funding becomes more and more precarious.” The Beneficiaries of Research On a sunny Thursday morning, Camille Brennan is making her 32nd visit to the CRC to participate in a study to test a new drug’s effectiveness against cirrhosis of the liver, a chronic disease that causes permanent liver damage. In all, she will visit the CRC 96 times. “I am hoping that one day there will be a drug available that can reverse or treat my disease more effectively,” Brennan says. “There’s a stigma associated with liver cirrhosis, and many assume it is always alcohol related, which, as my diagnosis shows, it is not. One of the reasons I am here is to learn if I have a genetic predisposition to this disease so that I can pass this information on to my sons and grandchild. If you look at the numbers, Brennan is
a trailblazer. Across the country, less than 5 percent of eligible patients take part in clinical studies, and getting these numbers up, says Murphy, has become a national priority. One of the ways that UB is addressing this is through ResearchMatch, a national registry for clinical research volunteers. The goal of ResearchMatch is to connect people who are trying to find research studies with researchers who are looking for people to participate in their studies. To date, about 70,00 individuals have registered with the national network. “When UB joined the registry, about 90 individuals were from Western New York. Today that number has risen to about 600,” says Murphy. “And while this is a tremendous improvement, we need to see those numbers rise into the thousands to make an impact.” Camille Brennan encourages all individuals to consider participating in a clinical study. “Whether you are helping
yourself or someone else, you’re adding to society’s understanding of science and medicine, and we all benefit,” she says. Another way to increase those numbers, says Murphy, is for UB to collaborate with its health-care partners and teaching affiliates. “To improve the health of people in Western New York and beyond, we need to work together to quickly assimilate research findings into community practice,” Murphy says. “The best way to do this is to promote community awareness of and involvement in clinical and translational research. This is a key role of an academic health center. With the Clinical Research Center, UB is working closely with our clinical partners on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to help lead this effort in our community.” To learn more about participating as a volunteer in a research study, go to ResearchMatch.org or contact Kim Brunton at (716) 888-4840.
UB MED DOCTOR VISITS
Photos by Douglas Levere
“It’s incredibly fulfilling to help patients manage diseases of the liver and offer them new treatments.”
ADVANCED TREATMENTS FOR LIVER DISEASE Anthony Martinez brings timely expertise to Buffalo
Anthony Martinez, MD, reels off the daunting statistics related to liver disease with an ease L o r i F e r g U S o n born of familiarity. For example, he says, there are currently about 6 million people in the U.S. infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), the majority of whom were born between 1945 and 1965. Martinez is a specialist in diseases of the liver, including viral hepatitis and alcoholic and fatty liver disease. He’s on the front lines of fighting these maladies, and he’s incredibly excited to be there. As clinical associate professor in UB’s Department of Medicine and medical director of hepatology at Erie County Medical Center (ECMC), Martinez is involved in every aspect of the battle against liver disease. He manages comprehensive liver disease clinics at ECMC and Buffalo General Medical Center, as well as at a third clinic at ECMC that specializes in patients with a HCV/HIV coinfection. He teaches fellows, residents and medical students who rotate through the clinics; participates in clinical trials; and, among other collaborations, works with faculty in UB’s Research Institute on Addictions on ways to link opiate-dependent HCV patients with care. He also studies new ways to deliver HCV treatments, and is currently taking part in a CDC-funded telemedicine study with a methadone clinic in New York City. StorieS
A native of Providence, RI, Martinez completed his residency in internal medicine at Boston University and a fellowship in hepatitis C evaluation and management and addiction medicine at Cornell University. His mentor at Cornell, Andrew Talal, MD, was later recruited to UB, and it was he who encouraged Martinez to come here. Martinez joined the UB faculty in 2013 from the University of California at San Diego. He was attracted, he says, by a gut feeling and the chance to make a difference. “When I first visited Buffalo, I felt something happening that’s tough to explain. I found the city’s energy incredibly compelling, I loved the people I encountered and I was eager to get back to a four-season climate. “I was really impressed by the university’s leadership and the direction the school was going in,” Martinez continues, “and I was excited to be a part of it. At the time I was recruited, the liver programs at ECMC and Buffalo General were in their nascence, and I saw a huge opportunity to participate in their development and have a major impact on the community. It’s incredibly fulfilling to help patients manage diseases of the liver and offer them new treatments. “Buffalo is an amazing, historic city and I’m thrilled to be here with my wife and daughter,” Martinez says. “I’ve received a great deal of support since I started. I’m out in the community a lot, talking to patients and providers, and everyone is interested in educational initiatives. The relocation of the medical school is really drawing people back to downtown. Many young professionals are recognizing the remarkable opportunities here and they’re jumping in with both feet. I view my time here as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Photos by Douglas Levere
“The patientcentered medical home structure is helping us to define a new model for primary care.”
A FOCUS ON QUALITY, PATIENT-CENTERED CARE John Fudyma chief of general internal medicine
John Fudyma, MD ’85, has seen dramatic transformations in health care delivery over the course of his career, and he’s confident it’s all to the good. Indeed, Fudyma himself has played a key role in this change since 2011, when Anne B. Curtis, MD, Charles and Mary Bauer Professor and Chair of Medicine, recruited him back to UB to serve as chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine. Fudyma has been involved in several clinical initiatives focused on improving the quality and effectiveness of health care delivery. He has helped several of the school’s teaching affiliates attain National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) recognition for their UBMD internal medicine clinics. He has also worked on the development of an academic hospitalist model for the Department of Medicine and has been instrumental in planning an integrated primary care network within UBMD and Great Lakes Health. Fudyma is well positioned to evaluate the challenges and opportunities for UB medical school, having spent a large portion of his career at his alma mater. After earning his medical degree, he trained in internal medicine at UB and then joined the faculty of internal medicine. From 2002 to 2008, Fudyma served as the chief medical officer for Erie County Medical Center (ECMC), a major teaching affiliate of
UB, and from 2008 to 2011, he served in the same role for the Seneca Nation Health Department. During this period he earned a master’s of public health degree at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “After completing my MPH, Anne Curtis offered me the opportunity to return to ECMC to work on improving the patient experience,” Fudyma says. “I saw it as a dual opportunity. First, it offered me the chance to return to an academic environment. I missed the intellectual stimulation of interfacing with my colleagues, and I was eager to resume my involvement with medical students and residents. Additionally, I welcomed the opportunity to be involved in rolling out an electronic information system, which I believe can aid us in delivering the highest quality care to our patients.” Since returning to UB, Fudyma has made it a priority to work with students, residents and faculty in UBMD internal medicine clinics on ways to improve patient and physician communication. “When I was in medical school, the training was very diseasecentric,” he notes. “The focus was on disease management and experiential learning. Today, the goal is patient-centric, which I believe is the right emphasis. “The patient-centered medical home structure is helping us to define a new model for primary care that allows physicians to slow down and spend the time they need to treat each patient effectively. We’re teaching residents and faculty to think beyond disease to a systems-based approach and helping them to use the available technology to best advantage. We’re redesigning health care delivery, and I’m delighted to be a part of it.” WINTER 2015
U B M E D PAT H WAY S
GUTTUSO SERVES AS ALUMNI PRESIDENT Thomas J. Guttuso, MD ’60, is the 2014-15 president of the Medical Alumni Association (MAA), a role that caps many years of outstanding service to UB and to the medical community in Buffalo.
“I feel it is truly an honor to serve as the president of the MAA,” Guttuso says. “It is a fulfilling experience for me, as I have such a strong appreciation for all the medical school has done for me. “As president, my goal is to improve the already excellent relationship the MAA has with the medical school administration and with the Office of Medical Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement. I feel strongly that if we continue to work together we can accomplish a great deal; for example, we have realized a significant increase in the Alumni Scholarship Fund and have built strong relationships with current students—the future members of our MAA.” Guttuso served as director of medical school admissions for 20 years (1982-2002) and assistant dean for admissions (1988-2002). As chair of ophthalmology at Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) in the late 1970s and early ’80s,
Guttuso led a successful effort to form a single, unified UBsponsored ophthalmology program. This was accomplished by incorporating what were then three strong clinical sites—at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, the Buffalo VA Medical Center and ECMC. He then served as program director in this new Department of Ophthalmology from 1985 to 1988. Guttuso has received numerous honors for his contributions to the medical school. He received the Distinguished Medical Alumnus Award in 1995 and the Dean’s Award in 2001.
HUGHES NAMED TO LEADERSHIP POSITION AT KALEIDA David P. Hughes, MD ’95, MPH,
senior associate dean for clinical affairs at UB, has been named executive vice president and chief medical officer for Kaleida Health, a major teaching affiliate of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He will continue in his role as senior associate dean at UB, responsible for optimizing the clinical performance of the medical school’s academic programs. An accomplished physician, business owner, entrepreneur
and engineer, Hughes previously served as senior vice president and chief clinical integration officer for Kaleida Health. He also has served as Kaleida Health’s medical director for employee health, an attending physician in emergency medicine at Kaleida Health and Erie County Medical Center, an assistant clinical professor in emergency medicine for UB, as well as the president of the governing board for UB’s physician practice plan, UBMD. Hughes received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Kettering University. He completed medical school at UB, a residency in emergency medicine at Wake Forest University Medical Center, and a master’s degree in public health from the Medical College of Wisconsin.
MCMAHON AND TURKOVICH APPOINTED CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICERS Colin J. McMahon, MD ’90, has been
named vice president and chief medical officer at Buffalo General Medical Center (BGMC) and Stephen J. Turkovich, MD ’03, has
been named vice president and chief medical officer at the Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.
McMahon previously served as medical director of hospital operations at BGMC; Turkovich, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at UB, previously served as quality and patient safety officer and as co-medical director of the newborn nursery at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. “Physician leadership is imperative if we are going to change culture and improve quality, safety and service to our patients,” says David Hughes, MD ’95, executive vice president and chief medical officer for Kaleida Health. “Drs. McMahon and Turkovich are outstanding leaders and will serve as direct, on-site medical administrators to facilitate our patient experience and quality of care initiatives.” McMahon received his bachelor of science degree in biology from SUNY-Fredonia, and his medical degree from UB. He has also served as director of adult services at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo and pediatric medical director at HighPointe on Michigan. Turkovich received his bachelor of arts degree in anthropology, as well as his medical degree from UB. He completed his pediatric residency at Golisano Children’s Hospital, University of Rochester.
MUKESH K. JAIN LEADS AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR CLINICAL INVESTIGATION
inflammatory disorders, heart disease and metabolic dysregulation. Prior to stepping in as president of the ASCI, Jain served as vice president and president-elect of the society, whose mission is to support the scientific efforts, educational needs and clinical applications of physicianscientists to improve human health.
Mukesh K. Jain, MD ’91, a nationally renowned researcher, has been elected president of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious physician-scientist societies.
In these roles, Jain has helped introduce a new national grants program to support the translational efforts of physician-scientists and has established an international prize to recognize individuals who have successfully moved a fundamental discovery into the clinic. He also established a program to support young physician-scientists “at a particularly vulnerable stage in their careers, when they are starting their own independent research programs.”
Jain joins an elite group, including past presidents who have gone on to leadership roles at the National Institutes of Health, as well as numerous academic medical centers throughout the United States. Previous presidents also include several members of the National Academy of Sciences as well as Lasker Award and Nobel Prize recipients.
In his role as president, Jain is spearheading an initiative that will allow for greater medical student engagement in the ASCI and is working with top investigators to establish international chapters of the ASCI in South America, Asia and Europe. “The goal,” he says, “is to develop a global ecosystem of physician-scientists.”
Jain is a professor of medicine, Ellery Sedgwick Jr. Chair and director of the Case Cardiovascular Research Institute at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. He also serves as the chief research officer for the Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.
A recipient of numerous awards, Jain has also been elected to the Association of American Physicians, and the Association of University Cardiologists, and is a fellow of the American Heart Association. He was the recipient of Harvard Medical School’s 2005 Mentorship Award and the 2009 Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals Case Medical Center Agre Award.
In the early 2000s, Jain gained international recognition when his laboratory identified a family of factors called Kruppel-like Factors that regulate critical aspects of cardiovascular biology, innate immunity and metabolism. The discovery has subsequently spawned research that has therapeutic implications for many disease areas, including chronic
JAMES PLATT WHITE SOCIETY
James Platt White was many things— physician, educator, researcher and philanthropist—a true visionary who was the driving force to build a medical school to serve the people of Western New York back in 1846. If he were alive today, he most certainly would be proud of how far we’ve come, and especially where we are going.
MAA PAST PRESIDENTS HONORED In recognition of their legacy On December 2, the Medical Alumni Association’s governing board gathered for the annual Past Presidents, Scholars and Friends dinner reception, kicking off the holiday season and honoring the legacy of the Medical Alumni Association. Pictured here, along with current president Thomas Guttuso Sr., MD ’60, are past presidents (first row, from left) Sylvia Regalla, MD ’75, Harold Levy, MD ’46, Edmond Gicewicz, MD ’56, Margaret Paroski, MD ’80; and (back row, from left) Charles Severin, MD ’97, Donald Copley, MD ’70, Jared Barlow Sr., MD ’66, John Bodkin II, MD ’76, Sanford Levy, MD ’86, John Przylucki, MD ’73, Helen Cappuccino, MD ’88, Richard Collins, MD ’83, Elizabeth Maher, MD ’85, Thomas Guttuso Sr., MD ’60, John Coyne, MD ’85.
Named for this exceptional man, the James Platt White Society is proud to honor today’s donors who demonstrate Dr. White’s philanthropic spirit by supporting the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences with an annual leadership gift of $1,000 or more. You are invited to join this most distinguished group of donors, who believe that higher education is important to the health and prosperity of the world. Every gift is important and valued. Please contact Diane Giuliano, Office of Medical Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement, to discuss how you would like to structure an annual gift. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 716-881-1377, or visit giving.buffalo.edu/schools/medicine to make a gift today.
Donors will be acknowledged and listed on the James Platt White Society honor roll.
U B M E D PAT H WAY S IN MEMORIAM
AVERY K. ELLIS, MD ’77, PHD ’79, MBA —Cardiologist and Curriculum Dean Avery K. Ellis, MD ’77, PhD ’79, MBA, senior associate dean for medical curriculum and associate professor of medicine and physiology, died suddenly on November 7 in Chicago, where he was attending a medical conference. He was 64. Ellis coordinated and implemented all activities related to the medical school’s curriculum, including development, educational research, outcome evaluation and instructional enhancements. “Dr. Ellis was a key member of the medical school’s leadership team,” said Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “He was instrumental in bringing innovative approaches to our always evolving medical curriculum, ensuring that our students receive an outstanding education. “We relied on Dr. Ellis’ thoughtful counsel related to advancements in our medical educational programs, particularly in the areas of outcomes assessment and teaching effectiveness,” Cain added. “We will miss him as a colleague, teacher and friend.” Prior to assuming the medical curriculum deanship in 2008, Ellis directed UB’s cardiology fellowship and served as chief of staff at the VA Western New York Healthcare System, where he was responsible for a budget of tens of millions of dollars. One of Ellis’ longtime UB colleagues recalled him as a dedicated teacher, mentor and colleague. “Teaching was one of Avery’s passions, and he was a master at it,” said David Milling, MD ’93, senior associate dean for student and academic affairs. “He had a critical impact on our medical students’ education
—especially, but not limited to, the preclinical years. In the Office of Medical Education, he was an integral team member. His unique sense of humor was known to all of us, and we will miss him dearly.” Second-year medical student Sam Racette described Ellis as the ideal medical school professor. “Not only was Dr. Ellis extraordinarily gifted at integrating basic science concepts into the clinical setting, but he was a role model who showed us how the best doctors think and reason. He will be missed for many reasons, but his abilities in the classroom make him irreplaceable.” A Buffalo native, Ellis graduated from Cornell University and received his doctorate in physiology and medical degree from UB. He completed his residency and cardiology fellowship at Stanford University Hospital. In 1999, he received a master’s degree in business administration from Duke University. A fellow of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, Ellis was a member of the American Society of Echocardiography and the New York State Cardiology Society. Surviving Ellis are his wife of 40 years, Nitza (Farhi) Ellis, MD; two sons, Robert A. and Noah D.; his mother, Mary Ann; a brother, Neil R.; and a sister, Laura. Memorial gifts in his honor can be directed to: UB Foundation, Office of Medical Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement, 901 Kimball Tower, Buffalo, NY 14214. Please note that your gift is in honor of Dr. Avery Ellis.
N O M I N AT E A D I S T I N G U I S H E D M E D I C A L O R B I O M E D I C A L A L U M N U S / A Each year we present a Distinguished Medical and Biomedical Alumnus/a Award to an MD and PhD graduate of our school. The Medical Alumni Association and the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences invite you to submit nominations. To review criteria and submit a nomination, go to medicine.buffalo.edu/alumni/nominate.
R E U N I O N W E E K E N D 2 0 1 5 — S AV E T H E D AT E F R I D AY , M AY 2 9 – S AT U R D AY , M AY 3 0 Friday, May 29 Distinguished Medical and Biomedical Alumni Awards and Alumni Cocktail Party Saturday, May 30 Spring Clinical Day and Scholarly Exchange Day Reunion Class Dine-a-Rounds Make your hotel reservations today by calling Hampton Suites, 220 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY, at (716) 855-2223.
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UB MED Q&A MEDICAL DEVICE COMPANY LEVERAGES UB EXPERTISE A simple, inexpensive hand-held respiratory device invented by an engineer and commercialized by Buffalo-based Medical Acoustics has been shown in a clinical study led by Sanjay Sethi, MD, chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, to improve symptoms in subjects with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The device, called the Lung Flute®, generates low-frequency sound waves to loosen mucous in the lungs when the user blows into it. UB clinicians are now researching its uses with other lung diseases. UB Medicine asked Medical Acoustics CEO Frank Codella to describe how his company has benefited from partnering with UB.
Q: What makes UB a good research partner for Medical Acoustics? A: In the case of Dr. Sethi, he’s a prominent researcher in pulmonary medicine—especially in the world of COPD—and since that’s the disease we’re focused on with our device, the fit is ideal. The clinical trials he conducted on the Lung Flute were critical to our obtaining FDA clearance and to our being able to commercialize the device. Q: How did you initiate that research project with UB? A: It was almost happenstance. I was introduced to Dr. Robert Genco (vice provost for Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach) at an event about the vision for the new medical campus. I described the concept behind our device, and he suggested I contact Dr. Sanjay Sethi and Dr. Tim Murphy, thinking they were researchers who might help us. When I met them, I knew I’d hit the jackpot because they are among the top COPD researchers in the nation. Q: With the Internet making proximity less important, how does being located in the same town with UB make a difference to Medical Acoustics? A: It certainly helps. Even though you can transcend distance now with the Internet, I still believe there’s no substitute for personal contacts, personal relationships. You spend time around the water cooler and maybe you come up with an idea that leads to a new device or a new use for a device.
“The clinical trials Dr. Sethi conducted on the Lung Flute were critical to our obtaining FDA clearance and to our being able to commercialize the device.”
Q: Are you engaged in new projects with UB researchers? A: We’re working with Dr. Stanley Schwartz, who is chief of allergy, immunology —Frank Codella and rheumatology, doing a study to look at the impact of daily use of the Lung Flute on people with asthma. Does it reduce reliance on rescue inhalers? Does it support bronchial hygiene therapy? It’s a pilot study with just 48 subjects—a proof of concept. We’ve been hearing from doctors and patients anecdotally that it helps, and now we want a more rigorous investigation. Q: How do you interact with the UB Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology? A: They provided engineering support when we took our device from prototype to commercialization. They’re a good resource. We’ll be looking to them for more collaboration in the future, especially if the Lung Flute proves to be efficacious for asthma control. That will be a big deal. To read more about UB research on the Lung Flute, go to www.buffalo.edu/news and search “Sethi.” —Judson Mead
Count me in.
“As a department chair, I see firsthand what the medical school brings to Buffalo and Western New York. I want to do my part to reinvigorate health care and the community I live in and love.” James D. Reynolds, MD ’78, is chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and director of the Ross Eye Institute, UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Building a completely new medical school is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Seize this chance to revolutionize medical education, health care and research in Western New York. Become a partner at this pivotal moment in UB’s history. There are many ways to support your new medical school today or in the future. Opportunities include: Medical School Building Fund Circle of Leaders Circle of Visionaries Please contact Kim Venti for more information. 716-829-2773 | email@example.com | www.giving.buffalo.edu/ubmedicine
21st-century education, treatment and discovery
THE NEW UB SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AND BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES ON THE BUFFALO NIAGARA MEDICAL CAMPUS
UB Medicine University at Buffalo 901 Kimball Tower Buffalo, NY 14214-8028
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Sam Racette is the student you like to find in medical school. He’s already explored his capacity for compassion. He spent a year with a Franciscan service program, working with people on the margins of society in Delaware. Now a first-year medical student, he’s vice president for community affairs for the Lighthouse
Clinic, a student-run voluntary health provider for Buffalo’s underserved population. The clinic was one reason Sam chose to study medicine at UB; another was the offer of a scholarship. The expense of medical school is daunting; Sam says having the scholarship makes facing that reality less intimidating. The best public universities have the strongest private support.
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A publication for alumni and friends of the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.