School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine
M.D./Ph.D. student wins F30 research grant for clinical TBI project
In Headlines on October 12, 2015
Natalie Wiseman

Natalie Wiseman

Natalie Wiseman, a student in the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s M.D./Ph.D. program, has received a F30 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award for Individual Predoctoral Fellows from the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development will provide $224,352 (F30HD84144) to support two years of doctoral research and two years of clinical training for her project, “Susceptibility Mapping of Cerebral Metabolism in Traumatic Brain Injury.”

Wiseman is mentored by Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Zhifeng Kou, Ph.D., whose lab focuses on neuroimaging of traumatic brain injury. She is the first student in Dr. Kou’s lab to win the award.

“I was excited to hear I got the grant, and a little surprised!,” she said. “As an M.D. student and Ph.D. student, I'm strongly interested in science that has an opportunity to affect the way we help patients. This project, being performed in humans, and specifically in the population that we see clinically, is well-aligned with the population that it would seek to help. I'm also interested in the use of MRI to answer more complicated problems about physiology, rather than just structure, and the role it can play in telling us more about the underlying changes in function that we see with disease.”

Her project uses magnetic resonance imaging to assess brain oxygen metabolism after mild traumatic brain injury, often referred to as a concussion.

“Mild traumatic brain injury is very common – about 1.2 million new cases per year in the United States – but we lack a good way of telling who will get better quickly (about 85 percent of patients) and who will still have symptoms six months or a year later,” she said. “Because we can't tell who these people are, we can't do anything in the early stages to try to help, and we are having a very hard time trying to develop treatment strategies. We are working on a method that we hypothesize will help us to tell the difference between these two groups.”

Patients from Emergency Medicine will have an MRI scan and neuropsychological testing completed within a few hours of their injury. The same scan and tests will be repeated at one month and six months post-injury.

Her sponsor and thesis committee teams include Dr. Kou, Robert Welch, M.D.; E. Mark Haacke, Ph.D.; John Woodard, Ph.D.; Alana Conti, Ph.D.; and Jeffrey Stanley, Ph.D.

“It is indeed a great honor for our students, because it is very difficult for our students to get an NIH grant and serve as the principal investigator,” Dr. Kou said. “We chose a clinical study for her F30 training project because this could be more related with her future career as a physician-scientist. Over the past couple of years, she has focused her attention on this area like a laser beam and made breakthroughs in several directions. Her tireless effort was finally rewarded by this great news. She is well-qualified and well-deserving of this award. Our whole lab and MRI Center are very proud of her.”

After completing the first two years of medical school, Wiseman joined the Translational Neuroscience Program and Dr. Kou’s lab in 2013. She is expected to graduate with the medical Class of 2019. The Ann Arbor native was introduced to WSU’s research environment during a summer research internship as an undergraduate at Bowling Green State University.

Wiseman and Dr. Kou thanked their colleagues at the MR Research Facility for their continuous help and support, as well as the former director of the M.D./Ph.D., program Ambika Mathur, Ph.D.; Scott Millis, Ph.D., M.Ed., professor of Statistics and Physical Medical and Rehabilitation, for his input on the project statistic design; the supportive environment offered by the Translational Neuroscience Program; and the WSU M.D./Ph.D. program.

Medical students' Freshman Patient Safety Education Day returns
In Headlines on October 12, 2015
Medical student Kelsea Whittle and Internal Medicine Vice Chair of Education Diane Levine, M.D.

Medical student Kelsea Whittle and Internal Medicine Vice Chair of Education Diane Levine, M.D.

For first-year medical students trying to keep up with the demands of a rigorous foundational science curriculum, it can be easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal — helping people. On Oct. 20, Wayne State University School of Medicine’s student chapter of the Institute for Health Care Improvement will help remind more than 300 first-year medical students why they are pursuing medicine at its second annual Freshman Patient Safety Education Day. 

“An estimated 400,000 patients die each year because of medical errors that could have been avoided,” said second-year medical student and IHCI project leader Kelsea Whittle. “The goal of this seminar is to humanize that figure and remind students early and often that medical errors have lasting effects on so many people’s lives.”

Whittle became a champion for patient safety after attending last year’s Freshman Patient Safety Education Day, where she heard firsthand from a man whose life was destroyed by medical errors. 

“As a first-year student, there isn’t a lot of contact with patients,” Whittle said. “So I think it’s important in that first year of medical school to take time and understand the emotional component of medicine.” 

At this year’s seminar and workshop, freshmen will listen to a speech by nationally renowned patient safety advocate John T. James. James was personally affected by medical error in 2002 when he lost his son to cardiac arrest, a tragedy that could have been easily avoided. 

Diane Levine, M.D., is the School of Medicine’s vice chair for education. She works closely with Whittle and other students in the IHCI to develop a patient safety curriculum and host seminars throughout the year. 

“There are 7,500 sponges left in patients each year,” Dr. Levine said. “Those are the types of errors that can be easily avoided. What we are trying to create with seminars like Freshman Patient Safety Education Day is a collaborative culture where everybody — doctors, nurses, medical techs — feels a responsibility for the safety of the patient.”

She stressed the importance of introducing patient safety education early in medical school. 

“Medical error is a huge problem, but it is something we can change,” Dr. Levine said. “It kills more people annually than breast cancer. Reaching first-year students early and teaching them processes to eliminate medical errors will help create a safer health care environment for future patients.”

A key component of the seminar will involve peer-to-peer learning. Second-year medical students will lead breakout sessions with first-year students. These small workshops will include hands-on learning exercises that stress the importance of teamwork in a medical environment and reinforce the benefits of collaboration with every team’s health care worker. 

“This is the second year Wayne State medical students have put on this event,” Whittle said. “I’m honored to continue the tradition my predecessors started and reinforce the importance of patient safety and quality improvement.”

International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics calls for treatment developed at WSU to fight worldwide preterm birth
In Headlines on October 8, 2015
Sonia Hassan, M.D.

Sonia Hassan, M.D.

Roberto Romero,  M.D., D.Med.Sci.

Roberto Romero, M.D., D.Med.Sci.

Recommendations to reduce the rates of preterm birth developed at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health’s Perinatology Research Branch were introduced as worldwide best practices in maternal-fetal health Thursday during the World Congress of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics in Vancouver.

Sonia Hassan, M.D., WSU associate dean for Maternal, Perinatal and Child Health, presented the recommendations on behalf of the Working Group on Best Practice in Maternal-Fetal Medicine for FIGO, the only global organization representing national societies of obstetricians and gynecologists. FIGO has member societies in 125 countries. The 21st FIGO World Congress is taking place in Vancouver Oct. 4-9.

Dr. Hassan, a professor of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine in the WSU Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and director of the Center for Advanced Obstetrical Care and Research for the Perinatology Research Branch at WSU, was instrumental in developing the modalities now recommended as worldwide best practices for preterm birth prediction and prevention.

Those recommendations include:

* Sonographic cervical length screening through transvaginal ultrasound in all women between19 and 23 and 6/7 weeks pregnant. Researchers for WSU and the PRB found that women with a short cervix -- one that is less than or equal to 25 millimeters long -- are at risk for premature birth.

* Women with a cervical length less than or equal to 25 mm should be treated with daily vaginal progesterone for the prevention of preterm birth and neonatal morbidity. In 2011, the team at the Perinatology Research Branch, housed at WSU and the Detroit Medical Center, discovered that the use of progesterone in mothers identified as at risk for premature birth cut that risk by nearly half. The study showed that the rate of preterm delivery in women less than 33 weeks into their pregnancy can be reduced by 45 percent by treating the women with a low-cost gel of natural progesterone. The inexpensive gel is applied by the mother intravaginally daily.

* The Working Group on Best Practice declared universal cervical length screening and vaginal progesterone is a cost-effective model for the prevention of preterm birth.

* In cases in which transvaginal ultrasound is not available, other methods to assess cervical length can be considered.

“Our research offers hope to women, families and children,” said Roberto Romero, M.D., D.Med.Sci., chief of the Perinatology Research Branch. “Worldwide, more than 15 million premature babies – 500,000 of them in this country – are born each year, and the results are often tragic. Our work has shown that it is possible to identify women at risk and reduce the rate of preterm delivery by nearly half, simply by treating women who have a short cervix with a natural hormone -- progesterone.”

At least 15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely each year, and preterm birth-related deaths are one of the leading causes of infant mortality, killing more than 1 million babies annually. According to the World Health Organization, the rate of preterm births across 184 countries in 2014 ranged from 5 percent to 18 percent.

“Despite decades of research, high rates of preterm birth and infant mortality persist in both high- and low-resource countries,” said Gian Carlo Di Renzo, M.D., Ph.D., honorary secretary of FIGO and chair of the FIGO Working Group on Best Practice in Maternal-Fetal Medicine. He is professor and chair of the University of Perugia, Italy, and director of the university’s Reproductive and Perinatal Medicine Center. “We now have the scientific methods to greatly reduce the rates of preterm birth around the world.”

The WHO reports that more than three-quarters of babies born prematurely can be saved by implementing treatments such as those recommended by FIGO. While more than 60 percent of preterm births take place in Africa and South Asia, the problem is global. Even in higher-income countries, the rate of preterm birth hovers at 9 percent. Among the 10 countries with the greatest number of preterm births, India ranks first, while the United States ranks sixth.

“Thanks to the dedicated work of the researchers at Wayne State University and the Perinatology Research Branch, we have the necessary therapies to reduce the scourge of preterm birth around the world,” said Jack D. Sobel, M.D., dean of the Wayne State University School of Medicine. “Now we must convince governments to support and implement these methods to save hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Dr. A. Martin Lerner, longtime chief of Infectious Diseases, dies at 86
In Headlines on October 7, 2015
A. Martin Lerner, M.D.

A. Martin Lerner, M.D.

A. Martin Lerner, M.D., P.C., M.A.C.P., a longtime chief of the Wayne State University Division of Infectious Diseases, died Oct. 5. He was 86.

Dr. Lerner was still practicing at the Treatment Center for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome he founded in Beverly Hills, Mich. He founded that center to treat fellow CFS sufferers after he was diagnosed with the condition in 1988.

Dr. Lerner was a professor of Internal Medicine, and served as chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases for the School of Medicine and Detroit Receiving Hospital from 1963 to 1982. He was chief of the Department of Medicine at Hutzel Hospital from 1970 to 1982.

He established a clinical virology laboratory at the School of Medicine and trained 33 physicians in infectious diseases. He published several groundbreaking papers on Herpes Encephalitics, pneumonia, cardiomyopathy and immunology.

His efforts on behalf of CFS patients led to his development of the Energy Index Patient Score, a functional capacity measurement tool used to diagnose patient fatigue at a time when such a benchmark was lacking. The development of the EIPS resulted in one of his five patents related to the diagnosis and treatment of CFS.

In 2010, Dr. Lerner received the Heart Award from Mothers Against Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, an international advocacy organization representing patients around the world with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, or CFS, for his more than 25 years of research on the condition and treating CFS patients.

Dr. Lerner received his medical degree from the Washington University School of Medicine and completed his residency in Internal Medicine with Harvard Medical Services at Boston City Hospital and Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, Mo. He served two years with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Unit, and conducted a three-year research fellowship in Infectious Disease at the Thorndike Memorial Laboratory, Boston City Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

He was an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, American Association of Physicians, as well as a master of the American College of Physicians and governor of the Michigan American College of Physicians.

Dr. Lerner is survived by his wife, Lueva; sons, Joshua (Susan) and Joel (Shannon) Lerner; daughter, Elizabeth (Ben) Hetzer; and several grandchildren.

A funeral service took place this afternoon (Oct. 7) at the Davidson/Hermelin Chapel at Clover Hill Park, 2425 East 14 Mile Road, Birmingham. Religious services will be held at 7 p.m. today and Thursday. The family will gather through the evening of Oct. 8 at the residence, 590 Wallace St., Birmingham, for friends to call. The phone number is 248-540-7217.

The family asks that donations in Dr. Lerner’s memory be made to the charity of your choice.

Cancer Biology student Anthony Guastella wins top poster prize at tryptophan research meeting
In Headlines on October 7, 2015
Anthony Guastella

Anthony Guastella

A Wayne State University doctoral student in his second year of the School of Medicine’s Cancer Biology Graduate Program won first place for his presentation on tryptophan metabolism and brain tumors at the 14th International Society for Tryptophan Research Meeting, held Sept. 16-18 at the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“Tryptophan metabolizing enzymes in patient-derived xenograft models of glioblastoma using molecular imaging and immunohistochemical studies,” by Anthony Guastella, was judged to be the best among a group of 63 posters presented by researchers from across the globe, said his mentor Sandeep Mittal, M.D., F.R.C.S.C., F.A.A.N.S., F.A.C.S.

Dr. Mittal is chair of the Department of Neurosurgery and an associate professor of Oncology. He and School of Medicine Professor of Pediatrics and of Neurology Csaba Juhász, M.D., Ph.D., were invited speakers at the conference.

“The caliber of the posters was very high. Most of the researchers who attended have been studying tryptophan metabolism for many years – in some cases decades – and my research group are relative newcomers to the field of tryptophan metabolism,” Dr. Mittal said. “Anthony's success is a testament to his enthusiasm for research and his hard work in the lab, as well as the quality of training and resources available to the Cancer Biology students.”

The Cancer Biology Graduate Program is comprised of 28 students in the Department of Oncology at the School of Medicine. “Anthony’s research project is highly translational and state of the art in that it is based on patient-derived xenograft tumor specimens from glioma patients propagated in mice as an accurate disease model,” said Larry Matherly, Ph.D., director of the Cancer Biology Graduate Program. “This is a powerful tool for imaging and therapy studies of cancer. We certainly commend Anthony for this well-deserved recognition of his excellent research.”

Guastella works in the Translational Neuro-Oncology Research Lab of Dr. Mittal, a neurosurgeon studying primary and metastatic brain tumors.

“What initially drew me to the project was how novel it was. There are few labs worldwide that study tryptophan metabolism and brain tumors, so being a part of one of them is great,” Guastella said. “The data we are generating is novel, very exciting and translational in nature. Our work will lead to a greater understanding in the field.”

The poster showed their ability to generate PDX mouse models of glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive primary brain tumor. 

“His project is highly unique and compelling, as his was the only project presented utilizing patient-derived xenograft models of brain tumors, and also the only to utilize positron emission tomography, or PET, to image tryptophan metabolism in vivo. Anthony is also very dedicated to his research work, which allowed him to present his poster and respond to questions with a great deal of confidence and clarity,” Dr. Mittal said.

“Winning the poster was an amazing experience. Attending the conference was unbelievable; to be in the same room as all the world leaders in my field of study was incredible,” Guastella said. “Not only was I able to present my data to an international audience of amazing minds in tryptophan research, everyone who came up to the poster was very impressed with the amount and quality of data I had collected only starting my second year. Even more exciting was the fact that we had people come up to Dr. Mittal asking to collaborate with us because our mouse model data was so impressive.”

Guastella also won first place, for a different project, at the Cancer Biology Graduate Program’s annual symposium in April 2015. 

Best Doctors in America® features 73 WSUPG physicians
In Headlines on October 7, 2015

Seventy-three physicians Wayne State University Physician Group doctors were named to the Best Doctors in America® List for 2015-2016. Only the top 5 percent of doctors in the United States earn this prestigious honor, decided by impartial peer review.

“The physicians who earn this honor are singled out for their expertise by their peers in the field,” said Michael Busuito, M.D., chairman of the WSUPG Board of Directors. “Patients treated by these specialists should know they are under the care of the best of the best.”

The WSUPG Best Dotorss, listed by name, department and specialty, are:

Eric Ayers, M.D., Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, Pediatrics

Patricia Brown, M.D., Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease

Pravit Cadnapaphornchai, M.D., Internal Medicine, Nephrology

Pranatharthi, Chandrasekar, M.D., Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease

Jonathan Cohn, M.D., Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease

Lawrence Crane, M.D., Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease

Murray Ehrinpreis, M.D., Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology

Dana Kissner, M.D., Internal Medicine, Critical Care Medicine

Keith Kaye, M.D., M.P.H., Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease

Diane Levine, M.D., Internal Medicine, Internal Medicine

Stephen Migdal, M.D., Internal Medicine, Nephrology

Milton Mutchnick, M.D., Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology

Voravit Ratanatharathorn, M.D., Internal Medicine, Hematology

James Rowley, M.D., Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Disease

Renato Roxas Jr., Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, Internal Medicine

Jack D. Sobel, M.D., Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease

Ayman Soubani, M.D., Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Disease

Gerald Turlo, M.D., Internal Medicine, Geriatric Medicine

Ulka Vaishampayan, M.D., Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology

Antoinette Wozniak, M.D., Internal Medicine, Hematology

Darius Mehregan, M.D., Dermatology, Dermatology

Tsveti Markova, M.D., Family Medicine, Family Medicine

Frederick Rosin, M.D., Family Medicine, Family Medicine

Kendra Schwartz, M.D., M.S.P.H., Family Medicine, Family Medicine

Lois Ayash, M.D., Oncology, Medical Oncology

Lawrence Flaherty, M.D., Oncology, Hematology

Shirish Gadgeel, M.D., Oncology, Medical Oncology

Robert Morris, M.D., Oncology, Gynecologic Oncology

Philip Philip, M.D., Ph.D., Oncology, Medical Oncology

Charles Schiffer, M.D., Oncology, Medical Oncology

Anthony Shields, M.D., Ph.D., Oncology, Hematology

Michael Simon, M.D., M.P.H., Oncology, Medical Oncology

Joseph Uberti, M.D., Ph.D., Oncology, Hematology

Jay Berman, M.D., Obstetrics and Gynecology, Obstetrics and Gynecology

David Bryant, M.D., Obstetrics and Gynecology, Maternal and Fetal Medicine

Bernard Gonik, M.D., Obstetrics and Gynecology, Maternal and Fetal Medicine

Pratik Bhattacharya, M.D., M.P.H., Neurology, Neurology

Edwin George, M.D., Ph.D., Neurology, Neurology

Momammad Ibrahim, Neurology, NeuroCritical Care

Omar Khan, M.D., Neurology, Neurology

Ramesh Madhavan, M.D., D.M., Neurology, Neurology

Kumar Rajamani, M.D., D.M., Neurology, Neurology

James Selwa, M.D., Neurology, Neurology

Aashit Shah, M.D., Neurology, Neurology

Andrew Xavier, M.D., Neurology, Neuroradiology, Endovascular Surgical

Murali Guthikonda, M.D., Neurosurgery, Neurological Surgery

Gary Abrams, M.D., Ophthalmology, Ophthalmology

Evan Black, M.D., Ophthalmology, Ophthalmology

Robert N. Frank, M.D., Ph.D., Ophthalmology, Ophthalmology

Bret Hughes, M.D., Ophthalmology, Ophthalmology

Mark Juzych, M.D., Ophthalmology, Ophthalmology,

Mark McDermott, M.D., Ophthalmology, Ophthalmology

Asheesh Tewari, M.D., Ophthalmology,Ophthalmology

Robert Tomsak, M.D., Ph.D., Ophthalmology, Neuro-Ophthalmology

Sam Nasser, M.D., Orthopaedics, Orthopaedic Surgery

Ho-Sheng Lin, M.D., Otolaryngology, Otolaryngology

Edwin Monsell, M.D., Ph.D., Otolaryngology, Otolaryngology

George Yoo, M.D., Otolaryngology, Otolaryngology

William Kupsky, M.D., Pathology, Pathology-Anatomic

Wael Sakr, M.D., Pathology, Pathology-Anatomic

Renato Roxas Jr., M.D., Pediatrics, General

Lawrence Horn, M.D, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, PMR

Alireza Amirsadri, M.D., Psychiatry, Psychiatry

David Rosenberg, M.D., Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Manuel Tancer, M.D., Psychiatry, Psychiatry

Wilbur Smith, Jr. M.D., Radiology, Diagnostic Radiology, Pediatric Radiology

Safwan Badr, M.D., Sleep Medicine, General Sleep Medicine

Anna Ledgerwood, M.D., Surgery, Surgery

Donald Weaver, M.D., Surgery, Surgery

Michael Cher, M.D., Urology, Urology

Isaac Powell, M.D., Urology, Urology

Jeffrey Triest, M.D., Urology, Urology

“This recognition speaks highly of the expertise and respect our faculty have. This also reinforces the fact that not only is Wayne State University Physician Group the largest physician organization in southeast Michigan, it also provides top quality care,” said Omar Khan, M.D., professor and chair of the Wayne State University Department of Neurology and chief executive officer of WSUPG. “Health care delivery and outcomes are shaping the future of clinical practice, and WSUPG is nicely positioned to lead from the front.”

Chief Medical Officer Mark Juzych, M.D., M.H.S.A., said, “To be nominated by your peers for the honor establishes this recognition as a gold standard in terms of reputation in the quality of health care we provide and how we treat patients."

The Best Doctors list is the largest continuous independent survey of medical professionals. Those named to the list are nominated by physicians using a peer-to-peer process doctors use to identify the right specialists for their own patients. Researchers for the corporation confirm credentials and areas of expertise. Physicians cannot pay to be listed and cannot nominate or vote for themselves. The list is audited and certified by Gallup®, and results from exhaustive polling of more than 40,000 physicians in the U.S.

“The fact that Wayne State University Physician Group doctors are academic and research faculty for the Wayne State University School of Medicine place them are the leading edge of modern therapies because they often develop them,” said Jack D. Sobel, M.D., dean of the WSU School of Medicine.

Wayne State University Physician Group is one of the largest nonprofit multi-specialty physician practice groups in southeast Michigan, with more than 2,000 affiliated physicians providing primary and specialty care. As faculty members of the Wayne State University School of Medicine, WSUPG doctors are at the forefront of medical science. To make an appointment at one of more than 180 locations, call 877-WSU-DOCS (877-978-3627) or visit www.upgdocs.orgfor more information. Connect with WSUPG at follow us @WSUPGDocs on Twitter.

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