UBMEDICINE CONNECTING ALUMNI, FRIENDS AND COMMUNITY
JACOBS SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AND BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO
Allison Brashear, MD, MBA Steps in as Vice President of Health Sciences and Dean
TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S
UB MEDICINE MAGAZINE, Spring 2022, Vol. 10, No. 1
ALLISON BRASHEAR, MD, MBA Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
In the months ahead, the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will conclude th . In this issue of UB Medicine, we a yearlong celebration of its
report on significant changes and challenges taking place at the school in tandem with this notable anniversary—developments that, in themselves, represent history in the making, as you will read about on the following pages.
Eric C. Alcott Associate Vice President for Advancement, Health Sciences, Senior Associate Dean of Medical Advancement Editorial Director Christine Fontaneda Executive Director of Medical Advancement Editor Stephanie A. Unger Contributing Writers Ellen Goldbaum, Dirk Hoﬀman, Ann Whitcher-Gentzke Copyeditor Ann Whitcher-Gentzke Photography Sandra Kicman Meredith Forrest Kulwicki Douglas Levere Art Direction & Design Karen Lichner
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus
Editorial Adviser John J. Bodkin II, MD ’76 Aﬃliated Teaching Hospitals Erie County Medical Center Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center Veterans Aﬀairs Western New York Healthcare System Kaleida Health Buﬀalo General Medical Center DeGraﬀ Memorial Hospital Gates Vascular Institute John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital Catholic Health Mercy Hospital of Buﬀalo Sisters of Charity Hospital
Meet Our New Dean We being our coverage by welcoming and introducing Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, UB’s new vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
12 Power of Place To more powerfully
address Buﬀalo’s entrenched health disparities, The Center for Urban Studies in the School of Architecture and Planning is joining the Community Health Equity Research Institute in the Jacobs School.
Correspondence, including requests to be added to or removed from the mailing list, should be sent to: Editor, UB Medicine, 916 Kimball Tower, Buﬀalo, NY 14214; or email ubmedicine-news@buﬀalo.edu Cover photo by Sandra Kicman
16 Training During a Pandemic
What has it been like for doctors to begin their training during a pandemic? Five medical residents talk about how the SARS-CoV-2 virus is shaping their learning environment—and them.
Genomic Sequencing Effort Read about how UB scientists mobilized during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to launch a genome sequencing eﬀort that now provides our community with a crucial decision-making tool.
Stayed the Course Jamal B. Williams is on his way to a postdoctoral position, thanks to a prestigious D-SPAN award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Doctor Visits Meet vascular surgeon Brittany Montross, MD ’09, and neurosurgeon Jeﬀrey Mullin, MD, and learn about their paths to medicine and the Jacobs School.
28 Physicians Not to Be Forgotten
34 UB Med Q&A Linda M. Harris, MD,
Elspeth Call, MD, introduces readers to her greatgrandmother and great-great grandmother, both of whom were graduates of the Jacobs School.
professor of surgery and director of the vascular surgery integrated residency program, discusses gender diﬀerences in vascular health.
Brashear Steps in as Vice President
for Health Sciences and Dean STORY BY ELLEN GOLDBAUM PHOTOS BY SANDRA KICMAN
llison Brashear, MD, MBA, formerly dean of the University of California, Davis School of Medicine, has been appointed vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB. She began in her new role on December 6.
Brashear succeeds Michael E. Cain, MD, who announced last April that he was stepping down from the two posts while remaining a professor in the Department of Medicine and the Department of Biomedical Engineering. “I am delighted that a physician, researcher and academic leader of Dr. Brashear’s international renown is joining our university community in these critical leadership roles,” says President Satish K. Tripathi. “As the responsibilities of these positions have profound implications for both our university’s mission of excellence and the health and vitality of our region, it was imperative that we found a visionary leader whose work reflects a demonstrated and enduring
commitment to serving the greater good. “Dr. Brashear is just that leader,” Tripathi adds. “Given her distinguished and impactful career—including as a longtime champion of inclusion and social justice—I have every confidence that she will help us enhance UB’s stature as a world-class leader in medical and health care education, training, research and clinical care.” As vice president for health sciences, Brashear leads the strategic integration of interprofessional education and practice, health sciences collaborative research, and clinical programs among all of UB’s health sciences schools, departments and hospital and clinical aﬃliates.
In addition, she has administrative responsibility for UB’s five health sciences schools, including the Jacobs School, particularly with regard to hospital aﬃliation, residency training and faculty practice plans. As the academic and administrative head of the Jacobs School, Brashear is responsible for providing overall leadership to the school to promote academic excellence, foster an inclusive environment, and advance its national and international prominence in basic and translational research, medical education, clinical engagement and service. In addition, Brashear serves on the university’s senior leadership team, working with the president, provost, deans and other key leaders to advance the university’s mission of excellence in education, research and engagement. “We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Allison Brashear to UB as our vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences,” says Provost A. Scott Weber. “A groundbreaking researcher in neurology, she brings significant academic and administrative leadership experience to these roles. “We are excited about Dr. Brashear’s vision for growing faculty research in the Jacobs School, providing innovative educational experiences to train the next generation of physicians and biomedical scientists, and continuing to foster a diverse, equitable and inclusive community in the school and the university more broadly.”
RENOWNED RESEARCHER AND DIVERSITY ADVOCATE At UC Davis, Brashear headed one of the nation’s top-tier medical schools, a national leader in research funding. Under her leadership, the school achieved record research awards of $368 million and last year more than doubled its clinical trial awards. Brashear has received continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health since 2008, conducting groundbreaking work on ATP1A3-related diseases. This group of rare, neurologic disorders includes a form of dystonia, Rapid-Onset DystoniaParkinsonism (RDP), characterized by sudden onset of involuntary muscle contractions that can be painful and prevent one’s ability to walk, talk and participate in activities of daily living. She is principal investigator of the multidisciplinary team funded by the NIH focused on the clinical genetic and cellular consequences of mutations in ATP1A3. Brashear is an internationally renowned researcher whose work has fundamentally transformed the way spasticity and dystonia are treated. At Wake Forest School of Medicine, she co-led the Wake Forest NeuroNext Clinical Site, one of 25 sites in a clinical trial network funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, designed to expedite therapy development for neurological disorders.
Dean Brashear visiting with master’s student Sri Laxmi Veerapeneni, left, and PhD student Katie Sortino.
Standing, from left: medical students Clayton Shanahan, Shanice Guerrier, Dean Allison Brashear; seated from left: Kathryn Hobika, Anthony Graber.
Brashear was lead investigator for the trial published in The New England Journal of Medicine that first demonstrated that botulinum toxin successfully treated wrist and finger spasticity in stroke victims. During her 30-year career, she led more than 40 clinical trials aimed at developing potential treatments for spasticity a�er stroke and cervical dystonia, or abnormal, involuntary movements of the neck. Her work led to approval of three forms of botulinum toxin to treat patients with disabling muscle spasms. Brashear is also a powerful advocate for promoting diverse leaders in medicine. She was instrumental in creating one of the first national leadership programs in neurology for women. She is a frequent lecturer on the importance of diversity in medicine, and a lifelong champion of advancing women’s leadership in medicine. “I am excited to join the University at Buffalo as the new vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at such a pivotal time in medicine,” Brashear says. “This is a unique opportunity to help advance President Tripathi’s vision for UB to be a top-25 public research university to improve lives.” Brashear says she is looking forward to working with UB’s talented faculty and staff to diversify and integrate the core missions of research, education, patient care and community engagement across its five health sciences schools and the university overall. Working to achieve health equity will be a core tenet of these efforts, she emphasizes. “One of the things that immediately attracted me to UB and to this city was how committed everyone is to improving the health of our community,” Brashear says.
CONFRONTING THE COVID-19 CRISIS Brashear’s first few weeks at UB coincided with the first case of the SARS-CoV-2 omicron variant being reported in Erie County, soon
followed by a surge that further stressed a healthcare system already overburdened by the delta variant. “I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to all the staff, faculty, students and healthcare workers who continue to meet the many challenges brought by the recent surge,” says Brashear, who began visiting area hospitals, clinics and oﬃces during this time. “I am so impressed with how our community is coming together, once again, to respond to the challenges of the pandemic.” Integrating the research mission of the Jacobs School and having it coalesce around shared goals is of paramount importance to Brashear. “Nothing has demonstrated the lifesaving power of research more than the fight against COVID,” she says. “Now, with testing, vaccines, monoclonal antibodies and oral therapies, biomedical research has given us the tools to address this pandemic. I have confidence that these and other advances will enable our country to overcome this and future health challenges.” Soon a�er her arrival at UB, Brashear established a COVID Surge Committee that is composed of physicians and researchers from throughout UB’s five health sciences schools. Under her leadership, members meet regularly to identify research, clinical and educational objectives that can be rapidly implemented in response to the pandemic.
PATH TO BUFFALO Brashear moved to Buffalo with her husband, Clifford Ong, a former attorney and civic activist, and their two rescue dogs. They are parents of two adult children, Richard and Diane, who joined them in Buffalo over the holidays on break from school. Currently, they are enjoying their temporary home in the Elmwood Village while looking for a permanent residence. A native of Indiana, Brashear graduated from the Indiana University School of Medicine, where she completed her residency in neurology, and later became a professor of neurology. In 2005, she joined Wake Forest University School of Medicine, where she was chair of neurology for 15 years. There, she held the Walter C. Teagle Endowed Chair of Neurology and was one of the first faculty members appointed to the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center board of directors. Together with neurosurgery, she created the first service line at Wake Forest and was responsible for nearly doubling the faculty during her time as chair. Brashear also holds an MBA from Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, with a focus on health-sector management. She completed the Harvard School of Public Health Leadership program for physicians, as well as a yearlong national program for women leaders in academic medicine, Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM). Brashear serves on the board of directors for the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and the McKnight Brain Research Foundation, and has been a member of the board of the American Academy of Neurology, as well as the American Neurological Association. S.A. Unger contributed to this article
U B M E D V I TA L L I N E S
CHAIR OF SURGERY INDUCTED INTO ACADEMY OF MASTER SURGEON EDUCATORS Steven D. Schwaitzberg, MD, chair of the Department of Surgery in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, has been inducted into the American College of Surgeons Academy of Master Surgeon Educators. The academy’s mission is to play a leadership role in advancing the science and practice of education across all surgical specialties, promoting the highest achievements in the lifetimes of surgeons. Individuals are selected to join following stringent peer review. A Jacobs School faculty member since 2015, Schwaitzberg has promoted the use of minimally invasive surgery skills around the world. His research has focused on methods of improving clinical outcomes to lessen recovery times, and he has contributed to the clinical use of robots in surgery. Schwaitzberg, who also is president of UBMD Surgery, has been active in the national discussion on improving the delivery of health care. He has taken a leading role in educating and inspiring surgeons to confront challenges that arise not just in the operating
room, but throughout all of health care, including health disparities in Buffalo. Long an advocate for physicians and surgeons learning about the connections between business and health care, Schwaitzberg launched in the Jacobs School a competitive, medical device startup boot camp called UB BLAST (Business, Law and Surgical Technology). Prior to coming to UB, Schwaitzberg was professor of surgery at the Harvard Medical School, chief of Schwaitzberg surgery at the Cambridge Health Alliance and associate professor of surgery at Tu�s University School of Medicine. He also served in Iraq as director of intensive care at the 365th Evacuation Hospital. —Ellen Goldbaum
LEVY SELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE CONGRESS OF NEUROLOGICAL SURGEONS Elad I. Levy, MD, the L. Nelson Hopkins, MD, Professor and Chair of Neurosurgery in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, has been named president-elect of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS). A neurosurgeon with UBMD Neurosurgery, Levy also is codirector of the Gates Stroke Center and Cerebrovascular Surgery at Kaleida Health, and director of endovascular stroke treatment and research medical director of neuroendovascular services at Gates Vascular Institute. The CNS is a partner organization for neurosurgeons, trainees and industry innovators in neurosurgical disease, advancing the global practice of neurosurgery by inspiring and facilitating scientific discovery and its translation to clinical practice. Through myriad resources, the organization supports neurosurgical professionals through all stages of their career. As a clinician and researcher, Levy has been a primary investigator in several international clinical research studies on carotid artery revascularization and stents, and served as the national interventional principal investigator for the SWIFT PRIME
trial, published in The New England Journal of Medicine. He has also been a principal investigator on national and international stroke trials, and has focused on what causes strokes, partnering with aerospace engineers to help understand how blood flow patterns share characteristics with airflow. Levy and his colleagues earned Food and Drug Administration approval for the first prospective trial to test the usage of stents in the human brain to Levy prevent acute ischemic strokes. At UB, Levy has trained more than 40 endovascular fellows in complex endovascular neurosurgical techniques, many of whom now hold leadership positions in academic institutions around the world. —Ellen Goldbaum
U B M E D V I TA L L I N E S
INFECTIOUS DISEASES SOCIETY OF AMERICA NAMES HICAR A FELLOW Mark D. Hicar, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases, has been named a fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). Fellowship in the IDSA is one of the highest honors in the field of infectious diseases; it recognizes distinguished clinicians and scientists around the globe who have achieved professional excellence and provided significant service to the profession. Hicar, an attending physician at Oishei Children’s Hospital and a physician with UBMD Pediatrics, conducts research focused on discovery of antibodies against infectious agents. In his career, he has discovered antibodies to novel targets on the HIV envelope protein and assisted in cloning antibodies from survivors of the 1918 influenza pandemic. He has pursued similar studies as well as epidemiologic and therapeutic response modeling in Kawasaki disease, the most common form of acquired heart disease in children.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hicar has initiated studies focused on antibodies that could target similar protein structures found in both SARSCoV-2 and HIV. He has National Institutes of Health funding to study antibodies against HIV, and is lead investigator on a SUNY multisite clinical study on antibody responses in HIV long-term nonprogressors, rare individuals who are infected with HIV but do not need therapy to control the disease. —Ellen Goldbaum
DUBOCOVICH RECEIVES 2022 AXELROD AWARD The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) has announced that Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of pharmacology and toxicology, is the recipient of the 2022 Julius Axelrod Award in Pharmacology. Dubocovich is receiving the award in recognition of her seminal work in understanding the physiological role of melatonin and its receptors Dubocovich on neuroendocrine function and circadian rhythms, and for her extraordinary contributions to the training of future pharmacologists. The Axelrod Award was established in 1991 to honor the eminent American pharmacologist who shaped the fields of neuroscience, drug metabolism and biochemistry and who served as a mentor for numerous world-renowned pharmacologists. “It is quite fitting that Dr. Dubocovich receive this honor, as her groundbreaking research on melatonin neuropharmacology builds upon the earlier work of Julius Axelrod,” says Allison Brashear, MD,
MBA, vice president for health sciences at UB and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “I am pleased this award also recognizes her exceptional dedication to mentoring the next generation of pharmacologists.” Dubocovich is an international scholar on the brain hormone melatonin and its receptors. Her pioneering work revealed melatonin’s impact on circadian rhythms, sleep disorders, depression, reproduction, body weight and torpor. “It is a distinct privilege to receive an award honoring the memory of such an eminent Nobel laureate, pharmacologist, neuroscientist and mentor whose scientific contributions still impact the discovery of medicines to treat psychiatric disorders today,” she says. Dubocovich serves as senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion in the Jacobs School. She is a passionate educator who has built culturally and intellectually diverse and academically inclusive communities of trainees and instituted inaugural programs for trainee development at all levels. A dedicated mentor for research trainees, she has trained and provided research mentoring to 48 graduate and postdoctoral scholars. The award will be formally presented at the ASPET Business Meeting and Awards Presentation during the ASPET Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology 2022 on April 2 in Philadelphia.
THE LEGACY OF ANGELS FOUNDATION SUPPORTS KRABBE DISEASE RESEARCH More than $900,000 awarded to UB Institute for Myelin and Glia Exploration B y S. A . Unger
Photo by Sandra Kicman
he Legacy of Angels Foundation has awarded more than $900,000 to the Institute for Myelin and Glia Exploration at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The funding will support research at the institute that focuses on discovering effective treatments—and, ultimately, a cure—for Krabbe disease, a progressive and fatal neurologic disorder that usually causes death before age three. The Legacy of Angels Foundation was established by Sue and Paul Rosenau, who lost their first grandchild, Makayla, to Krabbe disease in 2003, at age two. The circumstances that led to the establishment of the foundation are extraordinary and garnered national media attention at the time. In 2008, Makayla’s parents had a second M. Laura Feltri, MD, acting director of the UB Institute for Myelin and Glia Exploration daughter. While driving to meet his new granddaughter for the first time, Paul stopped to Paul Rosenau, TLOAF president, and Stacy Pikebuy a Power Ball ticket in his home state of Minnesota. Later Langenfeld, TLOAF executive director, jointly state: that evening, he and Sue realized that they held the winning “We’re excited to see the progress that has occurred since ticket and had won a jackpot totaling $180 million—exactly the inception of TLOAF. Our foundation strives to bring five years to the day a�er Makayla’s passing. researchers from across the world together to expedite A few months later—spurred by their loss and touched the discovery of new therapeutic interventions for Krabbe by the remarkable timing of their winning—the Rosenaus disease. We’re thrilled to welcome the addition of Dr. Laura founded The Legacy of Angels Foundation (TLOAF) to fund Feltri to our robust list of researchers.” research into improved treatments Traditionally, hematopoietic for Krabbe disease, as well as for stem cell transplantation, also known cystic fibrosis a�er having learned as a bone marrow transplant, has that their other daughter and improved the long-term survival and son-in-law carry the gene for quality of life of patients with Krabbe this disease. The foundation disease, but it is not a cure. Recent also promotes the expansion of studies conducted by Feltri and her newborn screening. group have led to a better understanding of possible ways “We are extremely grateful for the support from The to make bone marrow transplants and other experimental Legacy of Angels Foundation,” says M. Laura Feltri, MD, therapies such as gene therapy more effective. SUNY Distinguished Professor, professor of biochemistry The Legacy of Angels Foundation primarily focuses on and neurology, and acting director of the UB Institute for providing support that strategically supplements gaps Myelin and Glia Exploration. “This two-component award in research funding. Since 2008, it has helped to propel provides crucial funding that supports the institute’s research on Krabbe disease and played a formidable role infrastructure and enables us to continue, unimpeded, our in the launch of two clinical trials offered to patients with innovative research into how to better treat or even cure infantile Krabbes. Recently, the foundation has leveraged Krabbe disease.” this success to cultivate promising new collaborations with pharmaceutical companies.
U B M E D V I TA L L I N E S
A VISION OF GENEROSITY Roberta Stevens, BA ’70, MLS ’74, and her husband, George Stevens, members of the Boldly Buffalo Campaign Steering Committee, have committed an additional $1 million to the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences’ Department of Ophthalmology. “Research is a major component of our department and one of the main reasons for our success is the collaboration among our scientists and our supporters,” says James D. Reynolds, MD, Jerald and Ester Bovino Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology at the Jacobs School. “Generous and committed supporters like the Stevens provide the foundation upon which our world-class faculty build a better world.” Longtime supporters of UB, the Stevens are building on their previous contributions to the university by adding to existing bequests (including one at the College of Arts and Sciences), which now total $4 million—half of which will be designated to the UB Department of Ophthalmology to research retinal and macular degeneration, a condition that has affected members of Roberta’s family and o�en leads to blindness. The Department of Ophthalmology at UB is making great strides in understanding the determinants of macular and retinal
degeneration, in large part thanks to the work of John M. (Jack) Sullivan, MD, PhD, professor of ophthalmology; electrophysiology and hereditary retina specialist with UBMD Ophthalmology’s Ira G. Ross Eye Institute; and staff physician at the VA Western New York Healthcare System. Roberta, a former president of the American Library Association whose career included high-visibility positions at the Library of Congress, shares, “I Roberta and George Stevens am fortunate that I had a loving and supportive family. However, it was a family plagued by a history of macular degeneration. George and I are committing half of our bequest to UB to further research in degenerative eye diseases that especially affect the elderly. It is our hope that other UB graduates will show their gratitude to UB through donations and bequests, remembering the university’s role in their lives.”
FOUNDATION 214 GIFT SUPPORTS “DREAM BIG” FOR CHILD HEALTH The Jacob School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences’ Department of Pediatrics is on a mission to establish a Child Health Research Institute. The institute is the vision of Steven E. Lipshultz, MD, A. Conger Goodyear Professor and Chair of Pediatrics at UB. To realize his vision, Lipshultz understood he first needed to recruit a world leader in pediatric genetics. He accomplished this in 2020, when Taosheng Huang, MD, PhD, Taosheng Huang, MD, PhD, came to examining Phoebe Lococo UB to serve as chief to the Division of Genetics in the Department of Pediatrics. Huang earned his formidable reputation by integrating research, molecular testing and clinical services to improve the care of patients. His proven expertise is critical to a Child Health Research Institute—something that community philanthropic leader Foundation 214 recognized when it recently awarded $300,000 to the Jacobs School in support Huang’s vital work at the bench and bedside.
“Foundation 214 is proud to play an important role in establishing the Child Health Research Institute,” says Chris Alfiero, executive director of the foundation. “Dr. Lipshultz and Dr. Huang have a strong history of bringing about meaningful treatments and protocols in the pediatric arena. Their concentrated efforts will lead the way to ensuring our children will be freer of debilitating conditions. We are blessed by their presence.” With the support of philanthropic leaders such as Foundation 214, the UB Child Health Research Institute will lead cross-disciplinary efforts to advance and transform child health in our region and beyond. To learn more about how you can support a vision that will set the stage for transforming care for sick children, contact Kathy M. Swenson, senior director of advancement at kswenson@buffalo. edu or call 716-829-5052. Foundation 214, Inc., a family-funded foundation, is engaged in serving veterans of the U.S. military, children and elderly in health care and education within the eight counties of Western New York. —Kathy Swenson
ADELINE FAGAN, MD ’19 MEMORIAL FUND UPDATE The life and legacy of Adeline M. Fagan, MD ’19, lives on through her family’s dedicated efforts and generosity. The Adeline M. Fagan, MD ’19 Memorial Fund has now reached over $260,000 thanks to the Fagan family and to supporters touched by the Jacobs School alumna, who died in September 2020 of COVID-19 at age 28. Adeline’s parents, Brant and MaryJane, and her sisters, Maureen, Emily and Natalie, put their grief into action by baking over 2,200 loaves of bread to sell at the Lafayette Apple Festival in October 2021. The effort raised over $11,300 for the memorial scholarship with the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, which will have its first awardee named in this fall. Gi�s to the fund can be made online at buffalo.edu/ giving/addie, or by calling toll free 1-855-GIVE-2-UB. Mailed donations should be directed to: University at Buffalo Foundation Inc., c/o Adeline M. Fagan, MD ’19
Memorial Fund, PO Box 730, Buffalo, NY 14226-0730. Additionally, the Adeline Fagan, MD Physician Service to the Community Award, presented by the Onondaga County Medical Society (OCMS), was awarded in November 2021 to Stephen Thomas, MD, FACP, chief of the Infectious Disease Division at Upstate Medical University Hospital. The Fagan award was renamed in 2020 in Adeline’s honor and is given annually by the OCMS. —Kathy Swenson
UB DOCTHERS NETWORK
UB DoctHers Network, established in 2015, is an organization that fosters mentorship opportunities for future generations of women in medicine and science. Members include alumni, faculty, residents and students. Pictured above are attendees at the DoctHers Mixer, the annual network meeting for second-year medical students at UB who are hoping to establish mentoring relationships for their medical school years and beyond. This winter, DoctHers Network is excited to welcome its newest member, Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, vice president for health sciences at UB and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Henry Louis Taylor Jr., PhD, professor of Urban and Regional Planning, leading architecture students and medical students on a tour of Buffalo neighborhoods. Also pictured, right, is Timothy Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and director of the UB Community Health Equity Research Institute.
in Addressing Health Disparities STORY BY ELLEN GOLDBAUM PHOTOS BY MEREDITH FORREST KULWICKI
CENTER FOR URBAN STUDIES JOINS COMMUNITY HEALTH EQUITY RESEARCH INSTITUTE
o more powerfully address and reverse Buffalo’s entrenched health disparities, a University at Buffalo center dedicated to regenerating underdeveloped neighborhoods is joining the Community Health Equity Research Institute in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.
The Center for Urban Studies in the UB School of Architecture and Planning has signed a memorandum of understanding with the institute that makes the center a vital component within the institute. “Making the Center for Urban Studies part of the Community Health Equity Research Institute represents a wonderful opportunity to marry our work on underdeveloped neighborhoods and issues with the built environment directly with the health disciplines on campus,” says Henry Louis Taylor Jr., PhD, professor of urban and regional planning in the UB School of Architecture and Planning. Timothy Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the
Jacobs School and director of the institute, agrees, noting that this “marriage” between the two organizations will strengthen UB’s ability to conduct meaningful research aimed at addressing Buffalo’s health disparities. “This move of the center into the institute represents an important advance for both entities and makes them both bigger and better,” says Murphy. “The Center for Urban Studies focuses on neighborhoods, housing and the built environment where people live, work and play, which are key social determinants of health. And the focus of the Community Health Equity Research Institute is health disparities, a direct result of the social determinants of health. So it made a lot of sense to team up.”
Henry Louis Taylor Jr., PhD, professor of Urban and Regional Planning, talking with architecuture and planning students Jeffrey Korosh, Austra Mussett and Evan Dash; and, back row: medical students Olumayowa Adebiyi, left, and Tatiana Amaye-Obu.
ACTION-BASED RESEARCH Founded in 1987, by Taylor, the Center for Urban Studies conducts basic and action-based research on community and economic development, focusing on the needs and issues of traditionally marginalized groups, including Black, Latinx, Asian and Native American people; women and low-wage workers. Established in 2019, the Community Health Equity Research Institute developed out of the work of UB faculty, staff and students working with the African American Health Equity Task Force, with which the Center for Urban Studies is also a close partner. It engages the expertise of UB researchers working with communities of color to address—through community participatory research—decades of detrimental federal and local policies that have created racial, residential and educational segregation and disinvestment in Buffalo neighborhoods. The move reflects the fact that health disparities are rooted in the social determinants of health, most of which are not directly related to the health care system. “Most social determinants of health exist outside of the health care system,” Murphy says. “They include poverty, neighborhoods, food access, the criminal justice system, educational opportunities and others. The success of our institute is going to depend on us being able to engage all the disciplines that are beyond the health sciences. Now we have the School of Architecture and Planning right in our institute. This move will help us attract other disciplines.” Robert Shibley, professor and dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, says the alignment creates a critical bridge between the institute and the broader curricular and research enterprise of the school, where Taylor will continue to teach and the Center for Urban Studies remains physically housed. “This alignment builds on a more than 30-year body of work by Henry and the Center for Urban Studies to address legacies of racism in the planning and development of our built environment. It also creates new openings for the Jacobs School to link questions of health disparities to our research and teaching on food justice, climate action, affordable housing and inclusive design,” Shibley says. “We’re excited by the possibilities of this new partnership to build healthier, more equitable communities together.” Indeed, that bridge is already building new connections across the university. The institute’s inaugural Research Day, held last October, featured talks from prominent community members as well as descriptions of research projects addressing health disparities from faculty in UB’s School of Nursing, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Law, College of Arts and Sciences and School of Architecture and Planning, as well as the Jacobs School. Ultimately, Murphy says, the goal is to inspire faculty members throughout all 12 of UB’s schools to conduct community-based participatory research on the social determinants of health.
From left: second-year medical students Olumayowa Adebiyi, Tatiana Amaye-Obu , and Timothy Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor, senior associate dean for Clinical and Translational Research and director, Community Health Equity Research Institute.
Henry Louis Taylor Jr., PhD, professor of Urban and Regional Planning, debriefing tour participants, from left: Evan Dash and Austra Mussett, School of Architecture and Planning students; and Timothy Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor, senior associate dean for Clinical and Translational Research and director, Community Health Equity Research Institute.
‘THE VERY WAY WE BUILD CITIES IN THE U.S. IS RACIST’
Taylor talking with students and faculty.
“Most social determinants of health exist outside of the health care system. They include poverty, neighborhoods, food access, the criminal justice system, educational opportunities and others. The success of our institute is going to depend on us being able to engage all the disciplines that are beyond the health sciences.”
“The idea of the connection between health outcomes and the neighborhood you live in is not abstract,” says Taylor. “The very way that we build cities in the U.S. is racist. The policies and decisions that create the conditions that exist inside these neighborhoods and communities —TIMOTHY F. MURPHY, MD, DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY HEALTH EQUITY RESEARCH INSTITUTE make it appear like it’s a natural process, rather than resulting from the decisions and choices of involving the community in research, while his project allowed the policymakers. It creates conditions that give rise to these student to grasp the importance of housing and its effect on health. undesirable outcomes.” All of the medical students gained new skills in demographic data UB medical students have been exploring those conditions inand spatial analysis. depth since 2018, when Taylor worked with Jacobs School faculty and “If median household income is around $11,000 a year and community partners at Buffalo churches to develop a new elective you’re paying more than half of it on rent, the stress of having to called Health in the Neighborhood. make ends meet and worrying am I going to have to move unleashes The course connects medical students with families in inner-city these stressors, especially in single-parent families, and that links us neighborhoods, helping students learn how structural racism back to the extraordinarily high infant mortality rate and low birth results from policies that have created segregated, substandard weight babies in these communities,” says Taylor, who has already living conditions. engaged planning students in the work through the Jacob School’s And last summer, under a project overseen by the UB Department practice-based studios and as research assistants in the Center for of Surgery, Mike Lamb, PhD, director of surgical education, led Urban Studies. three Jacobs School medical students in participatory research, By conducting research on these issues, Taylor adds, students get while Taylor worked with another medical student on housing and to see how neighborhood conditions on the ground contribute to the neighborhood. Taylor said the participatory research project health outcomes and grasp the importance of involving residents in gave students an opportunity to understand the significance of the quest to forge strategies to improve their communities and take
From left: School of Architecture and Planning students Jacob Kotler, Jeffrey Korosh, Evan Dash, and Austra Mussett; and Timothy Murphy, MD, director, Community Health Equity Research Institute.
control of their health. In an effort to foster this work, scholarship funding is available to students in architecture and planning who are interested in pursuing these research activities. Murphy explained that training the next generation of researchers at the graduate and postdoctoral level is a major focus of the $21.7 million Clinical and Translational Science Award that UB received from the National Institutes of Health last year. A key goal of moving the center into the institute is to train the next generation of multidisciplinary researchers who can look at housing and urban planning and understand how they affect health outcomes so they can work to improve them. “If you do not transform the neighborhoods where people live, you will be very limited in being able to make any change,” Taylor emphasizes.
TRANSFORMING AN EMPTY LOT One project Taylor points to with obvious pride is what used to be an empty lot that he and students from the Center for Urban Studies began transforming about 15 years ago. The lot was across from Futures Academy, also known as PS 37 Marva J. Daniel Futures Prep, an elementary/junior high school on Buffalo’s East Side “The idea with that project was to demonstrate that we have the capacity and the power to change the environment that we’re in,” says Taylor. “How could we tell the kids in that school that education will change their lives when you can’t even change their environment? So we found a way to completely transform it.” Now, due to their efforts, the empty lot is a welcoming park with a whimsical entry sign, benches and a vegetable garden, and an abandoned building on the site has been demolished. “That’s what we want to do,” Taylor concludes. “Our story is not one of doom and gloom, it’s one of hope and possibility.”
“Making the Center for Urban Studies part of the Community Health Equity Research Institute represents a wonderful opportunity to marry our work on underdeveloped neighborhoods and issues with the built environment directly with the health disciplines on campus.” —HENRY LOUIS TAYLOR JR., PHD, PROFESSOR, URBAN AND REGIONAL PLANNING AND FOUNDER, CENTER FOR URBAN STUDIES
And, Taylor and Murphy note, it’s a story that’s happening because of UB’s strong support. “If it wasn’t for the enthusiastic support of the president and the provost, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” says Taylor. “It’s a demonstration of the commitment on the part of the university that says the health issues among African Americans are an urgent question. We are aligning our forces on this campus to play a significant role in partnership with the African American community to do something about it.”
Trainingon the Frontlines of a
FIVE MEDICAL RESIDENTS TALK ABOUT WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BEGIN THEIR CAREERS AT THIS TIME Stories by S. A. Ung e r Photos by Mere d i th Fo rre s t Kul wi ck i
S THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC ENTERS ITS THIRD YEAR, THE WORLD CONTINUES TO REEL FROM ITS SEEMINGLY ENDLESS RAMIFICATIONS.
Nowhere has its impact been felt more than on health-care providers, some of whom have been on the frontlines of care since day one of the pandemic and day one of their medical careers. What has it been like for doctors to begin their training during a pandemic? How has it affected their attitudes toward their chosen professions, their personal lives and their perspectives on their future? At any given time, some 780 medical residents and fellows from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences provide care to patients in UB’s aﬃliated teaching hospitals and clinics throughout Western New York.
UB Medicine asked five of these residents to talk about what it’s been like for them to begin their careers during this time of crises. As you will read on the following pages, while every story is different, each encompasses a shared experience that will likely bond this generation of physicians in unique ways for the remainder of their careers. Editor’s note: Interviews for these stories were conducted in early December, when hospitalizations in Buffalo were surging due to the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant, several weeks before the presence of the Omicron variant was reported in Erie County.
No Matter What Throws at You
nternal medicine resident John Boutros, MD, was in the second half of his internship when COVID-19 began to alarm the international medical community. He and his fellow trainees read and discussed scientific papers about the virus and learned what was known about its origins, how it was affecting patients, what to look for in the community and whom to admit to the hospital. “We were warned,” he says. “We were given a heads up, so there was a kind of easing into it.” The easing-in period ended abruptly, and for Boutros, like all frontline workers, it was a shi� in reality he will never forget. “I was at ECMC [Erie County Medical Center] when a patient on the unit tested positive—then it went to two, three, four patients, then to a half dozen, and then the whole unit by the end of the week,” he recalls. “We had to identify and monitor all our colleagues who had treated those patients, and some became symptomatic and had to stay home. It was a scary time when the virus first reached us because we saw the infectious nature of it—how it could spread like wildfire.” Boutros, who is now chief resident for internal medicine at the VA Western New York Healthcare System, has worked in numerous ICUs in area teaching hospitals aﬃliated with UB. In the early days of the pandemic, he was struck by the disconnect between what he was seeing inside the hospitals and what was taking place outside. “In the ICUs, we were seeing patients who had obviously been infected for some time and who were having very distressed breathing, were at the end stage,” he says. “It was a sort of helplessness—you’re offering them everything you have available and still you’re watching them deteriorate and then pass. It is always diﬃcult to see a patient pass—it never becomes a normal thing—but the volume at which it was happening at the peak was very diﬃcult. It is a big moment, I think, in the development of any physician to see that go down on your watch.”
Outside the hospital, people didn’t seem to have an understanding of the severity of the disease, Boutros says. “You didn’t know if people were aware of the same sorts of things you were seeing on the inpatient side,” he reflects. “There was a kind of disconnect early on, but as the year progressed and people wore masks and social distanced and got vaccinated, you began to have hope that there was a greater appreciation or awareness in the general public.” Boutros feels that the experience has made him and his fellow residents better ICU physicians and better people. “We have become fast learners,” he observes. “And we have learned how to support one another, to become stronger as a unit. “It’s been an opportunity to learn how to remain resilient, no matter what medicine throws at you,” he adds, “and hopefully we will be able to apply those skills moving forward.”
John Boutros, MD
Uncertain Well Equipped to Deal with
nternal medicine resident Jasmyn Miller, MD, had strong forebodings about what COVID-19 would mean to the world. During the first eight months of her residency, which began in July 2019, she saw patients with conditions you would normally expect to see on an inpatient medicine service: diabetes, COPD exacerbations, heart disease. In early 2020, that normalcy was shattered when she and her fellow residents began to receive regular updates about a lethal coronavirus spreading unchecked around the globe. “We were getting so many emails just trying to figure out what was going on and how it was going to affect our work in clinical situations,” recalls Miller, a native of Niagara Falls, NY, and graduate of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “For a couple of weeks, I would try to go to sleep at night, but instead I would think about all the
Jasmyn Miller, MD ’19
different ways that this was going to affect not only us— America—but the world. A few times, I actually had palpitations just thinking about how serious this could be. And it’s only proved me right.” Miller was soon immersed in treating COVID-19 patients. She says two aspects of the pandemic have been particularly diﬃcult: the number of deaths she has witnessed, and the number of people who have died without family at their bedside. “I never imagined that I would have to deal with this amount of grim events and death in residency,” she says. “You know that it is a part of medicine, and in some sense I had been prepared. But the sheer amount of mortality that we have seen is very hard.” Miller says that the pandemic “hit home” for her when she was rotating through the VA Western New York Healthcare System at a time when visitations were no longer allowed. “It was almost like we were becoming the patients’ family,” she explains. “If we were with them when things took a turn for the worse and they passed, we had to call family members we’d never met before and try to console them. That weighed heavily on my mind. “I think I can speak for a lot of residents, when I say we have ‘COVID fatigue,’” Miller adds. “Not literally from COVID, but from how draining it has been for there to be so many differing opinions about the virus. It puts a lot on people when you’re trying your best and you’re just not getting the results you want.” Despite these challenges, Miller emphasizes how resilient she and her fellow residents have discovered themselves to be. She attributes this to the preparation they have in common. “We have all been through so much to get here—so much work and tears and missing out on things,” she observes. “I think that we are more resilient than we might give ourselves credit for. “And because of what we’re experiencing now,” she concludes, “I also think that, as a whole, this generation of physicians will be well equipped to deal with uncertain times.”
n Di�erent A Lot
than the Lecture Hall
lthough he is in his second year of residency in anesthesiology, Adam Lorenzo, DO, is a bit of an old hand at patient care because of the unusual route he took to UB. A native of Georgia, Lorenzo worked for two years as a nurse on an ICU/burn unit at the University of Florida before attending medical school at Rocky Vista University in Colorado. Following medical school he trained for two years in orthopedics at Michigan State University/McLaren Macomb Hospital before switching to anesthesiology. While at McLaren Macomb Hospital, Lorenzo volunteered to work in the ICU, which was being hit with the first wave of COVID patients. “It was an honor to be there and to help,” he says, adding that it was diﬃcult to see the devastation. “Prior to COVID, we had family members visiting their loved ones on the unit, and then two weeks later they were on Zoom saying a final goodbye, not ever having seen them again. It was Adam Lorenzo, DO heartbreaking.” During this time, seven patients died in the unit in one day and Lorenzo had to call each family. “I’ve never been in a war zone,” he says, “but it felt like a war hospital that day. We were working with very limited resources, PPE was scarce, staff was overwhelmed, and the facility was not prepared for the volume and acuity. I remember taking a step back from calling the families, just to take it all in. I didn’t think anyone I knew had ever been in a situation like this.” At UB, Lorenzo is experiencing yet another wave of the pandemic, which he says is accelerating an already-steep learning curve for residents. “Not only are we learning anesthesiology, we’re also having to stay up with the latest research.” He describes a case where a woman who was COVID positive had premature twins delivered by emergency C-section. “There were 22 people in the room taking care of her because we just didn’t know what to expect.”
Intubation is another reason that the learning curve has been steep for anesthesiology residents during the pandemic, Lorenzo explains. “COVID patients are a lot sicker. The oxygen reserves in their body are compromised, so the techniques we use to safely take control of someone’s airway are different. In normal conditions, you have a minute or two to intubate. Now, with COVID patients, you have anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds and, on top of that, you’re aerosolizing particles, so you’re putting everyone at risk.” Asked if he has any advice for incoming residents, Lorenzo says: “Just remind yourself of the day that you got into medical school and the reasons why you became a physician. Those core values will get you through the darkest of times. Some people lose sight of them because training is a lot different than what you were exposed to in the lecture hall.”
Empa�y Balance, Resiliency,
reksha Arora-Hughes, DO, is a fourth-year resident in psychiatry who is currently serving as chief resident. When COVID-19 began its sweep across the world, she was between her second and third years of training, which coincided with her being assigned to the outpatient behavioral medical clinic at Erie County Medical Center, a UB teaching aﬃliate. “I gained a lot of experience at that time with telemedicine and phone visits, as well as with Zoom, which was allowed then,” recalls Arora-Hughes, a Buffalo native who earned her medical degree at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Although this created better access, many patients were much sicker because they were dealing with such diﬃcult situations with COVID, and so we saw some more o�en than we normally would—several times a month rather than monthly,” she adds. While experiences such as this have expanded the residents’ learning Preksha Arora-Hughes, DO opportunities, Arora-Hughes points out that the pandemic also imposed limits on their training due to the fact that some electives, such as those involving outreach in the community, are not being offered. As for lessons learned during this time, Arora-Hughes says As chief resident, Arora-Hughes works with junior residents that she has come to better understand more than ever how and has observed their response to the pandemic. “The current culture impacts a patient’s response to psychiatric illness. “In PGY2 class is very close,” she notes, explaining that its members psychiatry, we’ve always emphasized cultural competency, but worked under very diﬃcult conditions as first-year residents the pandemic has really brought the importance of that training but have shown much resiliency. “Psychiatry residents spend the to light for me.” first six months of their training in medicine, so the PGY2s saw Recently, Arora-Hughes presented a lecture titled: a lot of really sick COVID patients, which can be overwhelming. “An Introduction to Health Care Disparities in Minority It’s hard to take care of patients when you know they may not Populations,” followed by a discussion led by James L. Thompson make it, and at the same time take extra precautions not to get III, MD ’19, PGY3, in which he and Arora-Hughes shared insights sick yourself.” they’ve gained from their experiences. Wellness has been a focus for the residents in the department, “We’ll definitely never forget this time,” says Arora-Hughes. who have been given opportunities to gather safely and parti“And I do think we will all come out stronger because of it—that cipate in activities that help them form supportive bonds. we will be more grateful for what we have. “There was a lot of relief when we were able to get vaccinated “Many of us have also learned to slow down and to ask, ‘How in December ,” says Arora-Hughes. “And once the weather do we take care of ourselves while taking care of our patients?’ got warmer, we were able to do more outdoor activities together she adds. “Finding that balance has become extremely important as planned by our Wellness Committee.” to us.”
M�ent When You’re in the
ennifer Anthone-Kloss, DO, MEd, taught high school biology and chemistry for five years in her hometown of Williamsville, NY, before deciding to pursue a career as a physician. By the time she began her residency in anesthesiology in June 2020, the worst of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic had passed. Program directors were providing regular updates, there was suﬃcient personal protective equipment, processes were in place to limit exposure to infected patients, on-call lists assured coverage if a colleague became sick, and caregivers had a better understanding of how to treat patients infected with the virus. For Anthone-Kloss, a main source of stress during this time stemmed from her being a new mother and all of the unknowns surrounding transmission of the virus. “When I started residency, my biggest fear was for my infant daughter’s health because I knew that I posed the greatest risk for bringing the virus home to her. It was very scary and overwhelming.” To counter this, Anthone-Kloss and her husband worked out a safety protocol for her to follow a�er each shi� before she came in contact with their daughter, and the couple constantly monitored her interactions with the baby. “It was a huge relief to get the vaccine,” says Anthone-Kloss, who shares that she is pregnant again. “The fear is still there, but not to the same extent.” When asked if she can recall a particular moment when she first realized the full impact of what it means to train as a physician in the midst of a pandemic, Anthone-Kloss doesn’t hesitate. “I had a very sick patient who, in addition to being COVID positive, had a superimposed bacterial pneumonia, was septic, had cardiac tamponade and needed to have an emergency procedure to remove the fluid from around her heart and was not hemodynamically stable. But, somehow, she was alert enough to understand the gravity of her situation, and she grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye, and asked, ‘Am I going to make it?’
“I told her we were going to do everything we could to try and help her through. I didn’t want to just tell her she would be OK, because she knew she wasn’t OK,” Anthone-Kloss recalls. “As it turned out, she tolerated the procedure well and did end up making it.” Pausing, Anthone-Kloss adds: “While we’re all tired, and there are these strong opinions about whether or not to get vaccinated or to follow masking and social distancing mandates, and so on, the bottom line is, when you’re in the moment and treating a patient, you just do your best to provide them with the highest quality care you can, with empathy and kindness.” Asked what advice she has for residents beginning their training during a pandemic, Anthone-Kloss says: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I do it multiple times a day because it’s a huge learning curve, and as trainees, we aren’t expected to know everything. “And,” she adds, “when you’re feeling exhausted and emotionally fatigued—like you can’t give anymore—try to imagine that the patient you’re about to see is your family member or loved one.”
Jennifer Anthone-Kloss, DO, MEd
DECISION-MAKING TOOL Jennifer Surtees, PhD, left, Gale Burstein, MD, MPH, center, and Carleen Pope
UB SCIENTISTS MOBILIZE TO LAUNCH GENOME SEQUENCING EFFORT BY ELLEN GOLDBAUM
t was March 2020, the early days of the pandemic, and the world was in lockdown. Without access to her lab where she studies genomic stability and mutations, UB biochemist Jennifer Surtees, PhD, was seeking any information about the new SARS-CoV-2 virus.
“Things were happening so quickly, it wasn’t like you could read the scientific papers,” she recalls. Surtees started following virologists and people in the sequencing community on Twitter. To someone who studies mutagenesis for a living, the conversation among the scientists was riveting. Some of the tweets she was reading, however, gave her pause. “Early on, some of the experts were saying it looked like the virus was mutating slowly and predicted that we wouldn’t see many mutations, but I was skeptical,” she recalls. “We really didn’t know enough about the virus to say that.” Surtees’ suspicions about the virus were soon borne out as the world learned of new variants. “People were doing genomic surveillance in different parts of the world,” says Surtees, an associate professor of biochemistry in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “I saw how
powerful that could be for making decisions based on what’s happening in the local community. I thought, ‘Ok, we need to be doing this here.’” Surtees contacted UB’s Oﬃce of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development to ask if anyone at UB was sequencing the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus isolated from Western New York patients. No one was. Teresa Quattrin, MD, senior associate dean for research integration in the Jacobs School, put Surtees in touch with Gale Burstein, MD ’90, MPH, Erie County Commissioner of Health and a clinical professor of pediatrics in the Jacobs School. “Gale was enthusiastic from the get-go,” Surtees says. “She seemed to recognize the importance and potential value of sequencing. She agreed to start sharing deidentified [anonymous] samples straight away.”
Photo by Douglas Levere
Photo by Douglas Levere
isolated from Western New York patients with COVID-19. Burstein, who has a research background, put Surtees in touch with By July, the infrastructure was capable of reliably detecting and Carleen Pope, administrative coordinator of the Erie County Public identifying mutations. Health Laboratory. Last summer, the core was one of five labs chosen statewide as part “The urgency of learning as much as possible about SARS-CoV-2 of a $20 million sequencing partnership between the Wadsworth elevated genomic sequencing to a high priority project for Erie Center and external laboratories. The effort aims to greatly expand County,” recalls Burstein. genetic sequencing on SARS-CoV-2-positive specimens derived from The three-way collaboration laid the foundation for what would eventually turn genomic sequencing of the virus in Erie County from the state’s population outside of New York City. As of mid-February 2022, the team Surtees formed has sequenced a UB biochemist’s idea into a reality that is helping hospitals and more than 6,000 virus samples from Erie County residents. They policymakers make critical health-care decisions. But getting samples was only part of the story. Doing the sequencing receive samples on a regular basis from the Erie County Department of Health, Kaleida Health, Catholic Health, Erie County Medical would require sophisticated scientific equipment and personnel with Center and KSL Diagnostics, a UB expertise in genomics and bioinformatics partner company located in Amherst, who could set up a dedicated New York. In addition, the UB team infrastructure to make sense has begun receiving samples from of all the data produced. WNY Rapid Testing, the Cattaraugus Luckily, all of that was available a block County Department of Health, and the away in the Genomic and Sequencing University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Core at UB’s New York State Center of hospital in Chautauqua County. Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life On December 22, the UB scientists Sciences (CBLS). Surtees says simply: and Erie County health oﬃcials “I would not have been able to do this reported that the omicron variant of the without the sequencing core or the people novel coronavirus had been detected in who run it.” Erie County. That connection was already strong: “This COVID-19 genomic surveillance Surtees co-directs UB’s Community of effort clearly demonstrates how Excellence in Genome, Environment Western New York benefits from UB’s and Microbiome (GEM) with Norma J. Norma Nowak, PhD, executive director of UB’s New academic health center,” says Allison Nowak, PhD, executive director of the York State Center for Bioinformatics and Life Sciences Brashear, MD, MBA, vice president CBLS and director of the Genomics and for health sciences at UB and dean of Bioinformatics Core. For years, Surtees the Jacobs School. “By leveraging the in-house expertise of our had been working with the core on her research into what makes a researchers and through strong collaborations with our clinical and genome stable. government partners, UB is performing an essential service that is As the pandemic unfolded, Natalie Lamb, a Jacobs School doctoral helping to safeguard public health in our community.” candidate doing dissertation work in Surtees’ lab, was working on mutation profiling—a skill directly transferable to COVID-19 sequencing. A�er defending her PhD thesis, she was hired by CBLS ROOTED IN THE HUMAN GENOME PROJECT as a bioinformatics analyst. Today Lamb, together with Brandon This successful effort has its roots in decisions that predate the Marzullo, senior programmer and bioinformatics analyst working pandemic by many years. under Jonathan Bard, associate director of bioinformatics, comprise Nowak, whose research contributed directly to the Human the CBLS team that makes sense of the data the sequencing produces. Genome Project, notes that it was that project that gave rise to the Lab technicians Amanda Boccolucci and Alyssa Pohlman have also discipline of bioinformatics. “The Human Genome Project required become a crucial part of the team, processing the samples. the development of this field,” she explains. “We foresaw that In late spring 2020, Surtees, Nowak and Donald Yergeau, PhD, genomics and our ability to understand the data in genomes through associate director of genomic technologies at CBLS, participated in a bioinformatics was going to be a driving force in life sciences, both series of Zoom meetings with personnel at the Wadsworth Center, at the basic level and for improving patients’ health.” the state Department of Health’s research lab in Albany, New York. The pandemic has more than proven that point. “Without the “We wanted to get a sense of what they were doing so we would sequencing core and without the bioinformatics piece, we wouldn’t be aligned,” Surtees says. “We did a lot of troubleshooting and be able to make sense of what’s happening, to see where there optimization of protocols.” are different versions of the virus, which are the mutations,” By late spring, Yergeau had established the wet lab pipeline in the says Surtees. CBLS to convert to DNA the viral (SARS-CoV-2) RNA genomes derived Nowak and the late Bruce Holm, PhD, then senior vice provost from patients through reverse-transcription. The process involves at UB, made sure that a genomic and sequencing core was part of amplifying the DNA version of the entire genome for each sample in the new center that UB was building on the then-fledgling Buffalo small fragments and subjecting them to next-generation sequencing. Niagara Medical Campus. “All of us knew then that sequencing To identify any changes or mutations, Bard established a bioinforwould be delivering important discoveries, and we have since matics pipeline to compare the sequenced Erie County genomes with witnessed sequencing technology become a critical component of the reference genome, which early on was the original virus that public health around the world,” says Nowak. circulated in Wuhan. “UB did this great thing years ago,” Surtees concurs. “It speaks to Surtees obtained the first positive SARS-CoV-2 samples from Erie the need to be forward thinking. It’s not always possible to predict County in April 2020. By May, she had received Institutional Review how a certain technology will be useful, but it will be useful.” Board approval to study the first batch of deidentified samples SPRING 2022
Stayed the Course Jamal B. Williams receives prestigious NIH award By Ellen Goldbaum
amal B. Williams is on his way to completing his doctorate in neuroscience in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He is also on his way to a postdoctoral position, thanks to an award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health.
Williams is one of 18 young researchers in the U.S. selected for the D-SPAN award, which supports a defined pathway across career stages for outstanding graduate students from diverse backgrounds underrepresented in neuroscience research. The two-phase award— which can cover up to six years—facilitates completion of a doctoral dissertation and transition to a strong neuroscience research postdoctoral position; and provides career development opportunities relevant to a trainee’s long-term career goal of becoming an independent neuroscience researcher. This spring, Williams will transition to his postdoctoral work under the mentorship of Daniel Geschwind, MD, PhD, the Gordon and Virginia MacDonald Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics, Neurology and Psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. Williams is a graduate scholar in UB’s Institute for Strategic Enhancement of Educational Diversity (iSEED), which provides competitive funding to a select group of exceptional first-year students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields. “Our programs, such as iSEED, provide underrepresented students like Jamal with continuous research, career and professional development mentoring so that they are well-positioned to benefit from prestigious national awards, such as the NIH D-SPAN award,” says Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion in the Jacobs School and SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. “We are extremely proud that Jamal is receiving this exceptional award, positioning himself as a role model at the top of the neuroscience field,” she says. A native of Buffalo, Williams completed his undergraduate studies at D’Youville College, where he earned dual degrees in mathematics and biology. He then earned a master’s degree in biology at SUNY
Buffalo State and developed an interest in neuroscience in which he learned about a field of study called epigenetics. It was a manuscript published from the lab of David Dietz, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the Jacobs School, where Williams learned about the application of epigenetics in neuroscience research. “I learned that DNA is a template for how genes are transcribed and that epigenetics is an additional factor where genes can turn on and off without actually changing the code of DNA,” says Williams, who worked for Dietz during a lab rotation. “I thought it was fascinating that stress or drug use or aging can play a role in turning genes on and off.” For his PhD thesis project on Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders, Williams has been working in the laboratory of Zhen Yan, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Physiology and Biophysics. He is currently a coauthor on seven manuscripts that have been published or accepted for publication and four more that are in submission; he also is first author on one published manuscript and another that is being prepared for submission. Under Yan’s direction, Williams is using epigenomic, biochemical and behavioral analysis to identify and target changes in gene expression that may be causing abnormal neuronal function in Alzheimer’s disease. Epigenomics examines epigenetic modifications in the whole genome. “My main focus is to look at how epigenetic factors change gene transcription in Alzheimer’s disease,” Williams explains. “The idea is, if we can identify what these epigenetic changes are, we can utilize already available drugs or use new ones to target abnormal epigenetic factors.” Yan describes Williams as “an outstanding student who has been consistently dedicated to scientific research. His strong drive to
Photo by Sandra Kicman
Jamal Williams is one of 18 young researchers across the U.S. selected for the NIH D-SPAN award.
make impactful discovery, paired with his exemplary work ethic, have propelled him to accomplish a lot during the predoctoral training. His self-taught bioinformatics skills particularly demonstrate the huge potential he has to develop into an independent scientist successfully,” she says. In addition to his research interests, Williams is well aware of the distinction of his position as a Black neuroscientist and how he can leverage that position to help undergraduates who —JAMAL WILLIAMS don’t typically see scientists who look like them. He was awarded an Arthur A. Schomberg fellowship at UB, which provides funding for eligible underrepresented full-time graduate students at UB, and he mentors Jacobs School students in biomedical sciences. When global protests erupted in 2020 in response to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Williams and Megan Conrow-Graham, a fellow graduate student
in Yan’s lab, wanted to make their social justice contribution to the field they know best: science. “We said, ‘What if we did something to change the narrative about how mostly Black and brown people or LGBTQ people or women in science are
“The idea is, if we can identify what these epigenetic changes are, we can utilize already available drugs or use new ones to target abnormal epigenetic factors.” perceived?’” Williams says. Together, they created “Reclaim the Bench,” a podcast that seeks “to amplify the voices and experiences of individuals and communities throughout history to the current day who have been historically excluded, marginalized, oppressed and exploited in the fields of science and medicine.”
In the first year, the duo posted seven podcasts, focusing on what they call the “unsung heroes.” They highlighted the contributions of scientists ranging from Vivien Thomas, whose techniques are still being used today to treat what is commonly known as “blue baby syndrome”; to Dorothy Brown, the first Black woman to become a surgeon in the deep South; to an interview with author Harriet Washington about her book, “Carte Blanche: The Erosion of Medical Consent.” In early 2022, Conrow-Graham and Williams released a series of interviews— titled At the Bench—featuring change-makers in science who have been involved in making science more accessible, diverse and just. Williams also is president of a science-policy organization called Science Demands Action, which works to educate policymakers on scientific topics. His aim is to make science a more equitable environment, especially for underrepresented students who seek a career in science. He recalls a line from the poet Amanda Gorman’s address during President Biden’s inauguration: “Sometimes the path you take is the one you create.” “That’s been true for me,” he says. “I was starting college, the first in my family, and I felt so out of place. I was a 23-year-old freshman and there wasn’t much familiar representation on the student side and even less on the faculty side. So, people like me had to create the path. I knew this path could have been more accessible for underrepresented and nontraditional students, but I didn’t get the courage to approach these issues until I was going for my PhD at UB; I finally had the courage to say, ‘You know what? I have some clout.’ It gave me motivation to speak out and attempt to change things for the better, and for the up-and-comers.” Williams also notes how important failures are in order to finally succeed. “Before I got this [D-SPAN] award, I tried twice before and my application wasn’t even discussed. So, if you don’t succeed the first time, you have to optimize, you have to be persistent. You have to keep trying over and over again. What I’ve done looks good only because I stayed the course.”
UB MED DOCTOR VISITS
Photos by Douglas Levere
“I hope to give back some of the things that were instilled in me at UB when I trained here.”
NOT READY TO GIVE UP LEARNING
Brittany Montross, MD ’15, vascular surgeon When she was an undergraduate at UB, Brittany Montross majored in biochemistry because she knew she wanted to go to medical school. She ended up double majoring in math when she saw she needed only a few more classes to accomplish this. “I really like math, and I wasn’t ready to give up learning it,” she explains. That attitude perhaps best describes why Montross is now a vascular surgeon on faculty at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, where she earned a master’s degree in biological sciences in 2011 and a medical degree in 2015. She loves learning, innovating and working with her hands, she says. “Going into medicine, I always thought surgery would be something I would be interested in. I really like anatomy and dissection.” Her calling was strongly aﬃrmed during a vascular surgery rotation with Hasan H. Dosluoglu, MD, professor of surgery in the Jacobs School and chief of the Division of Vascular Surgery. “Dr. Dosluoglu really loves the field, and was excited about vascular surgery every day,” says Montross. “That was really good to see, because not everyone goes to work every day loving their job.” Another formative mentor for Montross is Linda Harris, MD, professor of surgery and residency program director for the division. “Having someone in this role who is as successful as Dr. Harris was By S. A. Unger
huge for me,” Montross explains. “As a woman, it can be really hard going into a surgical subspecialty because you don’t know what to expect. Can you have a family? Can you do this work successfully and still have a life outside of it? These are super-important things. “But it’s not just women,” she notes. “Many men entering the field today are also looking for this balance.” Strong mentoring by Dosluoglu, Harris and others helped Montross resolve these questions. Today, she is a clinical assistant professor of surgery, a physician with UBMD surgery and the mother of a 20-month-old son and expecting another child. A Buffalo native, Montross is interested in medical education and working with UB medical students. She is assistant clerkship director in surgery and in July will assume the role of director. “I hope to give back some of the things that were instilled in me at UB and build that love of surgery that I found when I trained here,” she says. The Department of Surgery is an exciting place to work, Montross adds. “What Dr. [Steven] Schwaitzberg is doing as chair is fantastic. He is really building up the department and advancing faculty’s educational interests, so being a part of this and the support we receive is great.” One of the reasons Montross was drawn to the field of vascular surgery is because of its “innovation.” She also likes following patients and establishing relationships with them. “For better or worse, our patients o�en need repeat interventions,” she explains. “But you get to know them and you see their successes. Even a�er an amputation, when they come back in and have their prosthetic, they are so excited to show you how they can walk. It makes me so happy.”
Photos by Sandra Kicman
“We’re always trying to improve, and that’s why clinical research is so important.”
ALWAYS TRYING TO IMPROVE
Jeffrey Mullin, MD, MBA, neurosurgeon For Jeffrey Mullin, MD, MBA, medicine inextricably blends technical innovation with an abiding care for his patients. A�er being named assistant professor of neurosurgery in 2018, Mullin has steadily advanced his career in all areas of neurosurgery, with a focus on spinal deformity surgeries and other complex procedures. Today, he also serves as associate director of the Department of Neurosurgery’s residency program and co-fellowship director for its spine surgery fellowship. He adheres to a lifelong belief in serving others, while developing his intellectual interests and enjoying family life as the father of five young daughters. Mullin came to UB from the University of Virginia, where he completed a fellowship. Previously, he finished a neurosurgical residency at Cleveland Clinic. The Pittsburgh native met his wife, Katherine Mullin, MD, when both were students at Georgetown University School of Medicine, from which Mullin received his medical degree in 2010; he also holds an MBA from the University of Notre Dame. Kate is a clinical assistant professor of medicine at UB and director of infection control and prevention at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Mullin’s research interests focus on the development of biomechanical models of the spine using 3D printing. His studies— conducted in collaboration with colleagues at UB and the Jacobs Institute—are funded in part by a gi� made to the UB Department By Ann W h itcher Gentzke
of Neurosurgery by James Derrick, a Western New York businessman, and his wife, Alison. “Our goal,” says Mullin, “is to 3D-print a spine in a way that is equivalent to what we achieve with computer testing and also have the capacity to test it as we do a cadaveric spine.” For Mullin, providing the highest quality care possible to his patients includes being upfront with them about the fact that surgery is not always the best option. “If someone has a spine deformity, they have a debilitating problem,” he says. “Surgeons try to help patients have a better quality of life. Yet I tell all of my patients, ‘surgery is not perfect,’ so if we can avoid it, we do. A lot of times, however, we can’t, and we need to do surgery that, again, is not perfect. “But, we’re always trying to improve, and that’s why clinical research is so important,” Mullin adds, emphasizing the importance of a team approach to research trials and emphatically thanking “all physician assistants, residents, students and fellows who play a role in this, to name a few.” Concerned about those unable to access care, Mullin also heads a spine clinic in Buffalo General Medical Center that serves uninsured or underinsured individuals, including veterans and refugees. In all, Mullin evinces a deep respect for his patients and says he does his best to answer their questions when surgery is contemplated. They’re putting themselves in my hands,” he says. “They’re trusting me to make the right decision and do the right thing for them.”
Emma M u
rray, MD 19
ss Ben Alice Ro
WOMEN PHYSICIANS Not to Be Forgo�en
STORY BY S.A.
Elspeth Call, MD, walks in the footsteps of her grandmothers
In years past, when a girl aspired to be a physician she had to look far and wide for female role models. That was never the case for Elspeth Call, MD, who only had to look into her family’s past, as both her great-grandmother and greatgreat grandmother were graduates of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “When I was seven or eight, we had to do a family tree story for school, and I remember my mom telling me about my great-grandmother and great-great grandmother, so from a young age I was intrigued by the idea of these phenomenal women physicians,” says Call, an obstetriciangynecologist with Trinity Medical, Western New York. A native of Buffalo, Call completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and her medical degree at St. George University. She then returned to her hometown, where she completed her residency at UB in
2017. Even though she spent her early years dreaming of becoming an actress, Call says she always felt a strong pull toward science as well. “I loved science. I was the kid who asked for a microscope or an erector set so I could build things,” she remembers. “This is what I was interested in, and then when I learned about my grandmothers, I gradually became more aware of how deeply ingrained these interests are on the female side of my family, and it began to make sense why I felt a similar gravitational pull.” While inspiring, the story of Call’s grandmothers is also a reminder of the limitations women have faced in medicine. Her great-great grandmother, Alice Rachael MacLean Ross Bennett, graduated from the Jacobs School in 1890, one of six women in her class (the largest number in a
male counterparts were doing—that they were as intelligent class up to that time). Following graduation, Bennett interned and capable as they were.” at a women’s hospital in Detroit, MI, but was unable to find In the 1922 “Roll Call of Medics” published by students in the employment. So she went to China and traveled up the Yangtze Jacobs School, Emma Bennett [Murray] was honored by her River to treat lepers at a missionary hospital in Shantou, China, fellow students, who explained why they placed her name first sometimes referred to as Swatow. on the list: “One always puts his best foot forward first, that is Anna Kay Scott, MD, a physician who worked alongside why we start this roll with Emma. There is but one person in Bennett at the time, reported: “Our Dr. Alice Ross [Bennett] was the whole school who does not think that she is perfect and that obliged to leave Swatow for the homeland before she had been person is Emma herself.” here a full year. We were very sorry to lose her, but the hot Call says her mother makes the point that both women’s season brought her an illness from which she could not recover husbands were exceptional for their time, in that each was in China.” supportive of his wife’s role as a physician. “My mother says Back in her hometown, Bennett finally found work as they were o�en chastised by friends who joked about ‘who a physician and married Arthur G. Bennett, MD, who had wears the pants in the family?’” graduated from the Jacobs School in 1891 and went on to become Call adds that on numerous occasions, Emma told Call’s a prominent ophthalmologist in Buffalo. mother that she always felt pressure to excel, that she “never Not too many details are known about Alice Bennett’s career could afford to make a mistake.” as a physician. An obituary published in the Buffalo CourierToday, Call surrounds herself with tangible proof of her greatExpress on August 10, 1948, describes her passing at age 81 and grandmother Murray and great-great grandmother Bennett’s reports that she served on the staff of Children’s Hospital, had remarkable careers as physicians in Buffalo. She has Emma been a member of the board of directors of Deaconess Hospital, Murray’s stethoscope on display in her home oﬃce and Alice and was a member of the Women’s Medical Society of New York Bennett’s medical school diploma, signed by Roswell Park, among State and the Women Physicians League. others. She also has Arthur G. Bennett’s American College of She and Arthur had two children: Alice Emma Bennett and Physicians and Surgeons Fellow diploma. Rounding out the Arthur Lawton Bennett, both of whom went by their middle collection are portraits of her grandmothers (pictured le�). names. Emma completed her undergraduate studies at Vassar Call, who has three children—a son and two daughters—says College and then entered the Jacobs School, graduating in 1924. she won’t pressure her children to follow in her footsteps. But Lawton also attended the Jacobs School, graduating in 1928, she also does not want them to ever forget these role models a�er which he followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming an because they need them, as do all girls and boys who aspire to ophthalmologist. fulfill their potential, no matter what is their calling. Emma married R. Leslie Murray, DDS, a graduate of the UB School of Dental Medicine, and embarked on a career as a general practitioner, with a special interest in women’s health. She volunteered with Planned Parenthood from 1938 to 1978 and was a close friend and collaborator of fellow Jacobs School alumnus Jack Lippes, MD ’47, inventor of the Lippes Loop intrauterine device. An entry in The Who’s Who of American Women states that Murray worked at the Ellicott Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic starting in 1948, and was a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Call explains that her great-grandmother Murray, who passed away shortly before Call was born, also worked with her brother, Lawton, in his ophthalmology practice. When discussing her family’s history, Call points out that it’s diﬃcult to find documentation about pioneering women physicians. She says that when she applied for residency at a program in the Northeast, she referenced her grandmothers’ careers in her personal statement and when she was interviewed, members of the admissions committee told her they had tried to look up information about the women to corroborate Call’s statement and couldn’t find any mention of either Dr. Alice Bennett or Dr. Emma Murray. “They asked me, ‘Are you sure they existed?’ Call remembers. “We need to tell these women’s stories and the stories of others like them so that they get the recognition they deserve,” she adds. “From what my mother tells me, they Elspeth Call, MD, who trained in obsetrics and gynecology didn’t draw attention to themselves but they did feel that at UB, holding her great-grandmother’s stethoscope. what they were doing was equally as valuable as what their SPRING 2022
U B M E D PAT H WAY S
ALUMNUS AND FORMER FACULTY MEMBER SELECTED FOR NATIONAL ROLE —Carlos Roberto Jaén, PhD ’88, MD ’89, named to U.S. Preventive Services Task Force By Dirk Hoffman
Carlos Roberto Jaén, PhD ’88, MD ’89, an alumnus of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and former UB faculty member, has been named to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The task force is an independent volunteer panel of national experts that works to improve the health of people nationwide by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services, such as screenings, counseling services or preventive medicines. The 16 volunteer members on the task force are nationally recognized experts in prevention, evidence-based medicine and primary care. Their fields of practice and expertise include behavioral health, family medicine, geriatrics, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, and gynecology and nursing. “On behalf of the full task force, I welcome Dr. Jaén,” says Karina W. Davidson, PhD, chair of the task force. “His expertise in guideline development and in improving quality and access to preventive care among Hispanic/Latino communities will be especially valuable as the task force works to address racial disparities and health inequities.” Jaén is professor and chair of family and community medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio). He occupies the Dr. and Mrs. James L. Holly Distinguished Chair in the health science center’s Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine. “I am very pleased that Dr. Jaén has been named to this important national position,” says Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, vicepresident for health sciences at UB and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “His appointment is testimony to his distinguished career in family medicine and primary care research, and as a practicing family physician. We are proud to have Dr. Jaén as an alumnus of both the Jacobs School and UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.”
GRATEFUL FOR EXPERIENCES AT UB
“His appointment is testimony to his distinguished career in family medicine and primary care research, and as a practicing family physician. We are proud to have Dr. Jaén as an alumnus of both the Jacobs School and UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.”
Jaén earned a doctoral degree in epidemiology and community health in 1988 from UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions (SPHHP) and a medical degree from the Jacobs School in 1989. “This is a very prestigious appointment for a graduate of both schools, which value evidence-based medicine,” Jaén says. “I owe them my orientation and ability to do the evaluation that allowed me to get to this point. “I had a rigorous training in the School —Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, vice president for health sciences at UB and of Public Health and Health Professions dean, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences that enabled me to evaluate evidence in a very proactive way, and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences also provided me the education that allowed me to do the things that I have been able to do,” he adds. Jaén completed a residency in family medicine and a fellowship in primary care research at Case Western Reserve University. He then served as a faculty member in the Department of Family Medicine in the Jacobs School and in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine in the SPHHP from 1992 to 2001. “I am very grateful for all the experiences at UB,” he says.
“With all he has accomplished, he remains humble, always focused on serving the underserved. He is a humanitarian. I am so proud to call him an alumnus of UB and my friend.”
Jaén le� UB when he was recruited as chair of family medicine at UT Health San Antonio. Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD, dean of the SPHHP and SUNY Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health, was a classmate of Jaén’s in UB’s doctoral program. “We spent many hours abstracting medical records data —Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD, dean of the UB and discussing our future goals,” she recalls. “Carlos was School of Public Health and Health Professions and always smart, thoughtful and respectful, and had ambition to help others. SUNY Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology and “I knew he would do well in his career, but Carlos has Environmental Health clearly gone beyond anything we dreamed of in those early years—he has established himself as a national leader,” Wactawski-Wende adds. “This appointment and election to the national academies are just two remarkable examples.” Jaén returned to UB a few years ago to serve as the SPHHP alumni speaker at the school’s graduation ceremony. “With all he has accomplished, he remains humble, always focused on serving the underserved. He is a humanitarian,” Wactawski-Wende says. “I am so proud to call him an alumnus of UB and my friend.” Jaén’s special interests include improving preventive care for individuals of all ages and preventing complications from chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. He is passionate about building and studying highperformance primary care practices. In 2013, he was elected as a member of the National Academy of Medicine and is a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Jaén was co-director of the American Academy of Family Physicians Center for Research in Family Medicine and Primary Care. For more than 15 years, the center studied almost 500 community-based primary care practices and completed the evaluation of the American Academy of Family Physicians’ national demonstration project of the patientcentered medical home. An international leader on smoking-cessation research, he served on the panels that published the U.S. Public Health Service smoking cessation guidelines in 1996 and 2000, and was co-chair of the panel that published an update in May 2008.
IMPORTANT ROLE OF THE TASK FORCE The task force issues recommendation statements that have letter grades. “A” is the strongest recommendation in favor of a service (such as colonoscopy or mammography) and “D” is the strongest recommendation against. The task force also issues “I” statements when evidence is insuﬃcient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of a service. “The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is probably one of the most consequential committees in the United States because, by virtue of the Affordable Care Act, anything that the task force determines to be A or B evidence for a recommendation must be covered by an insurance plan without charge to the patient,” Jaén explains. “Decisions made by this task force affect everyone in our nation.” Services to be reviewed include screening tests, counseling interventions and medications. The task force focuses only on primary prevention in people who are asymptomatic, before a disease state begins or is evident. “Task force members review the best evidence there is, look at the risks or benefits of a service, and analyze studies that lay out the pros and cons,” Jaén adds. Task force members are appointed by the director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ ) to serve four-year terms. Members are screened to ensure they have no substantial conflicts of interest that could impair the scientific integrity of the task force’s work.
U B M E D PAT H WAY S
IN MEMORIAM JAMES P. NOLAN JR., MD —Former chair of medicine, nationally recognized physician leader James P. Nolan Jr., MD, former professor and chair of the Department of Medicine in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, died on June 30, 2021. He was 92. Nolan, who earned a medical degree from Yale in 1955 and trained in internal medicine and hepatology at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, returned to his hometown of Buffalo in 1963 with his wife. He served as professor in the Department of Medicine and as chair of the department from 1978 to 1995. He also served as chief of service in the Department of Medicine at Erie County Medical Center from 1980 to 1995. He was awarded the title of SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in 1995 and retired in 1999. With Evan Calkins, MD, Nolan oversaw the growth of the Department of Medicine from 50 faculty to more than 150. In the 1960s, Nolan and Calkins developed the department through Buswell Fellowships, increasing the depth of research and recruiting future division heads. Of the faculty they recruited, some 25 went on to chair departments or hold similar appointments elsewhere around the world. Nolan also led an active research program in liver disease and the effects of endotoxins. He and his group made key discoveries that led to a better understanding of the role the toxins play in liver disease when it is affected by alcoholism and hepatitis. Teaching was always a top priority for Nolan. He was selected by residents twice to receive the White Coat Award, which is given to faculty members demonstrating excellence in teaching. In the 1990s, Nolan became increasingly involved in academic medicine in his role as president of the Association of Professors of Medicine and chair of the Board of Regents for the American College of Physicians. Both organizations provided a forum for him to address his concern about the trend toward specialization in internal medicine. Nolan participated in the national debate at the time and attended meetings on the subject at the White House. In 1994, Nolan was elected to chair of the American College of Physicians Board of Regents. He had served on the 26-member board starting in 1989 and was vice chair in 1993. Prior to joining the board, he was the society’s governor for New York State for four years, winning the Governor of the Year Award in 1988, and was president of the New York State chapter from 1987-88. In 1989, Nolan was recognized as a Master in the American College of Physicians for his many contributions to internal medicine and to the American College of Physicians. The author of more than 100 articles and abstracts, Nolan has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Experimental and Clinical Medicine and as a reviewer for a number of prestigious journals, including The New England Journal of Medicine and the Annals of Internal Medicine.
ROBERT A. MILCH, MD ’68 —Surgeon and co-founder of Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo Robert A. Milch, MD ’68, longtime professor of surgery at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and co-founder of Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo, died June 4, 2021 in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Amherst after a brief illness. He was 78. A Buffalo native, Milch was the elder son of Mollie M. Milch, a former Buffalo School Board president, and Elmer Milch, MD, a former chief of surgery at Buffalo General Hospital. He graduated from Bennett High School in 1960 and completed a bachelor’s degree in English from UB in 1964. Four years later, he graduated from the Jacobs School, president of his class. After completing his residency in general surgery, Milch spent two years as a surgeon at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Quantico, Va. He then began his career as a general and vascular surgeon with Buffalo Medical Group and joined the faculty at the Jacobs School, where he served for 25 years. In 1978, Milch was asked to chair an annual conference with the American Cancer Society and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. He opted for something new, a session on hospice that involved doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains. Milch bet on the conference’s success, agreeing that he would cover the expenses if the event failed, but share in the receipts if it succeeded. More than 250 people attend, and Milch took the almost $4,000 proceedings, gave it to his Hospice Buffalo co-founder, Charlotte Shedd, and said, “Let’s start.” Hospice Buffalo is believed to be the nation’s 11th organization of its kind. At first, the local group made do with a small second-ﬂoor office near All-High Stadium, and Milch helped broker a deal with then-Erie County Executive Ed Rutkowski to rent seven unused rooms in the Erie County Home & Infirmary in Alden for $1 a year. That became Hospice Buffalo’s first inpatient unit. Over the past 43 years, the organization—now Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo—has grown steadily, having served tens of thousands of Western New York patients and their families. In January 1993, at age 49, Milch gave up his surgical practice to become Hospice Buffalo’s full-time medical director. Milch received numerous awards in his career. Two of his most cherished were being named Citizen of the Year by The Buffalo News in both 1993 and 1999. His other prized awards included the Hastings Center’s first-ever Cunniff-Dixon Physician Lifetime Achievement Award; the Jacob School’s Berkson Memorial Award for his compassionate patient care and excellent teaching; and the Jacobs School’s Class of 1981 dedicating its Iris yearbook to him.
VIJAY ASWANI, MD, PHD —Associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics Vijay Aswani, MD, PhD, associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics in the Department of Medicine, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and a physician with UBMD Internal Medicine, died in June 27, 2021 at home of natural causes. He was 59. “He was a kind and gentle physician who was most beloved by his patients,” said Anne Curtis, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine, in a June 28 email to faculty and staff in the Jacobs School in which she announced Aswani’s sudden passing. “Whenever we referred patients to him for primary care, invariably we heard back praise as to his caring nature and excellent medical care. He was a superb role model as a primary care physician for our students and residents.” Aswani, a 2019 recipient of the Louis A. and Ruth Siegel Awards for Excellence in Teaching, participated in medical missions in Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the British West Indies. At the height of COVID-19, he traveled to Brooklyn to treat patients. In an article in the spring 2019 issue of UB Medicine, Aswani explained that his most difficult medical relief trip was a six-week stay in Sierra Leone in 2015, when he worked as a first responder for an outbreak of Ebola and could offer no cure to children in his care who died of the disease. In addition to his clinical care, Aswani, who had a PhD in biochemistry, was an accomplished researcher who focused on genetic and metabolic disorders. Gifts in memory of Dr. Aswani and his commitment to global health, can be made to the UB Global Medicine Fund online at https://buﬀalo.edu/campaign/globalmedicinefund or by calling toll free 1-855-GIVE-2-UB. Mailed donations should be directed to: University at Buffalo Foundation Inc., c/o UB Global Medicine Fund, PO Box 730, Buffalo, NY 14226-0730.
UB MED Q&A GENDER DIFFERENCES IN VASCULAR HEALTH
—A conversation with Linda M. Harris, MD, professor of surgery Vascular surgeons in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences organized the first-ever Women’s Vascular Summit in 2019, with attendees from around the country. Its purpose was to launch a discussion among vascular physicians on how vascular disease may be different in women than in men and what that means for diagnosis and treatment. Those discussions proved so productive that conference organizers realized that a book about women’s vascular health was a vital next step. The result is “Vascular Disease in Women: An Overview of the Literature and Treatment Recommendations” (Elsevier, August 2021). The volume is edited by Linda M. Harris, MD, professor of surgery, director of the Jacobs School’s vascular surgery integrated residency program, and Caitlin W. Hicks, MD, associate professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. UB Medicine recently talked with Harris, who also is a vascular surgeon with UBMD Surgery.
What do you want to accomplish with this book?
A: I want clinicians to understand that many women do have vascular disease, but their presentation just won’t be classical, as textbook symptoms tend to be based on presentation in men, so they should consider doing some testing.
The book explores the fact that a woman experiencing a stroke, for example, may have diﬀerent symptoms than a man. What do physicians need to know about this?
It may not be weakness in an arm or a leg as it might be in a man. Instead it may be something different at first, like a sudden memory issue.
“Despite current NIH guidelines, most prior research in large trials has been on Caucasian males.”
What other things may be diﬀerent in women?
What are screening recommendations for women with vascular disease?
It has been shown that women with peripheral arterial disease complain less than men, despite worse disease. Women sometimes develop vascular disease at a later age than men typically do, so they are more frail, which not only affects their symptoms, but can also impact options for intervention. Women o�en present with aneurysms in different parts of their bodies than men and their responses to intervention may also differ. Some of this may be related to smaller size blood vessels in women, in general, compared to men, but other factors may be equally important with differences in outcomes.
The Society for Vascular Surgery recommends that women who smoke or have a family history of aneurysms be considered for screening. However, Medicare does not cover vascular screening for women, as it does for men.
How does research aﬀect clinical care for women with vascular disease?
We know that there is sex bias in research. For example, the cell lines studied at a basicscience level have routinely been male, so potential hormonal impacts aren’t addressed. Despite current NIH guidelines, most prior research in large trials has been on Caucasian males. There are national initiatives to increase the percentage of women and underrepresented minorities in all prospective trials, which will hopefully help to address many of these issues. —Ellen Goldbaum and S. A. Unger
Decades of Research that Led to SARS-CoV-2 Vaccines
Photo courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania
�ave �e Date Drew Weissman, MD, PhD Roberts Family Professor of Vaccine Research Perelman School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania
June 4, 2022 2022 Harrington Lecture
Dr. Weissman invented and developed the modified mRNA technology used in the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in collaboration with Dr. Katalin Karikó, adjunct professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania and a senior vice president at BioNTech. He will speak about how the mRNA science he and Dr. Karikó developed over the last two decades helped to lay the scientific foundation for the largest global vaccination campaign in history. Drs. Weissman and Karikó are the recipients of the 2021 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award that often precedes a Nobel Prize; and the 2022 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the world’s largest science prize, among many other international awards.
RSVP: www.medicine.buﬀalo.edu/HarringtonLecture Or contact: Tracy Oun, Assistant Director of Constituent Engagement for the Health Sciences (716) 829-6420 / jacobsmed@buﬀalo.edu
This event is made possible by the D.W. Harrington Lecture Endowment, established in 1896.
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