School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine
World AIDS Day Detroit, launched by School of Medicine student, returns Dec. 1
In Headlines on November 25, 2015
Jeanne White-Ginder and Phillip Kucab.

Jeanne White-Ginder and Phillip Kucab.

“American Idol” season eight winner Kris Allen will headline a World AIDS Day Detroit benefit at the Garden Theater.

“American Idol” season eight winner Kris Allen will headline a World AIDS Day Detroit benefit at the Garden Theater.

World AIDS Day Detroit is Dec. 1.

World AIDS Day Detroit is Dec. 1.

World AIDS Day Detroit, co-sponsored by the Wayne State University School of Medicine, returns to the city Dec. 1 with three events at the Garden Theater, 3929 Woodward Ave., Detroit, including a concert starring an “American Idol” winner and finalists, a speech from the mother of Ryan White on the 25th anniversary year of his death, a community forum and more.

World AIDS Day Detroit was launched Dec. 1, 2011, by School of Medicine fourth-year medical student Phillip Kucab as a grassroots campaign to provide a day of reflection, awareness and education. It coincides with the international World AIDS Day observance.

“I am thrilled World AIDS Day Detroit has become the largest fundraiser of its kind in Detroit,” Kucab said. “It provides a platform to stand together as one community and commemorate World AIDS Day in a major way. We urge everyone to take part.”

For more information, tickets for events or to make a donation, visit

The day will kick off at 8 a.m. with a Giving Breakfast, when area mayors, elected officials, community organizations, and university and business leaders will gather to hear Jeanne White-Ginder talk about her son Ryan, who contracted HIV in 1984 through tainted blood products used to treat hemophilia. Ryan, then 12, was ostracized by his community and expelled from school. He became a national spokesman for HIV/AIDS, and his story gained worldwide attention, as well as attention from superstars Michael Jackson and Elton John. Four months after his death in 1990, Congress passed the Ryan White Care Act to provide access to medicine and treatment for Americans impacted by AIDS.

World AIDS Day Detroit will continue at 11:30 a.m. with a free community symposium open to the public that will provide area children the opportunity to participate and learn about White’s inspiring story, as told by his mother. AIDS United Chief Executive Officer Michael Kaplan will speak at the breakfast and symposium.

“American Idol” season eight winner Kris Allen will headline the benefit concert at 7 p.m., with appearances by fellow “Idol” finalists Melinda Doolittle, Rayvon Owen, Devin Valez and Malaya Watson, and a presentation of the AIDS quilt.

“HIV is 100 percent preventable, yet we are still seeing 50,000 new infections every year. In the United States, one in 200 people have HIV, but it is three times that rate here in Detroit, and one in four people do not even know they have it,” Kucab said. “Treatment and care are accessible, yet less than half of the people in and around Detroit who have HIV are being treated. We can do much better than that.”

In observance of World AIDS Day Detroit, members of the School of Medicine’s STI/HIV Education Initiative student organization will volunteer at all Dec. 1 events, and will host several events at the School of Medicine throughout the week:

Nov. 30:

Noon to 1 p.m., Margherio Family Conference Center -- HIV patient panel/Post-Exposure Prophylaxis and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis presentations

Noon to 1 p.m., Scott Hall cafeteria -- World AIDS Day Detroit T-shirt sales to benefit local HIV organizations

Dec. 2:

Noon to 1 p.m., Scott Hall cafeteria -- World AIDS Day Detroit T-shirt sales to benefit local HIV organizations, red ribbon distribution and “Wear Red Day”

Dec. 3:

Noon to 1 p.m., Scott Hall cafeteria -- small-group discussion of HIV patient panel

School of Medicine faculty members provide health care, discuss clinical and public health in Paraguay
In Headlines on November 24, 2015
Margit Chadwell, M.D., ’94, cares for a family in Paraguay.

Margit Chadwell, M.D., ’94, cares for a family in Paraguay.

A sign welcomes locals to the team’s temporary clinics.

A sign welcomes locals to the team’s temporary clinics.

Louis Saravolatz, M.D., treats a child.

Louis Saravolatz, M.D., treats a child.

Two Wayne State University School of Medicine faculty members traveled to Asuncion, Paraguay, this summer with a medical mission team, providing six days of health care in five of the capitol city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Margit Chadwell, M.D., ’94, an assistant professor and clerkship director of Family Medicine, and Louis Saravolatz, M.D., professor of Internal Medicine and an infectious disease specialist and chair of Medicine at St. John Hospital, visited the landlocked country in South America July 30-Aug. 11.

“Paraguay has rich soil, yet few resources. Both the individual physical and public health needs of the population are immense,” Dr. Saravolatz said.

The team transformed a different school into a medical base every morning, caring for about 250 patients daily and more than 1,000 total. The sites included a fairly well-stocked pharmacy of medications, a local on-site pharmacist and interpreters for each practitioner. The volunteers treated variety of medical issues. Poorly controlled hypertension and numerous respiratory ailments were the most common, and many children presented with symptoms of internal parasites and poor dental health.

The trip was Dr. Saravolatz’s third medical mission to Paraguay and Dr. Chadwell’s second, and was organized locally through Crosspointe Christian Church in Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. It was. The team brought medication, a suitcase of patient education materials for the most common conditions they expected to see and 300 pairs of eye glasses. Another 300 were purchased in Paraguay.

Patients lined up early and waited throughout the day with their children in up to 100 degree heat in the “Paraguayan winter,” Dr. Chadwell said. “We also made house calls and curbside consults – literally – as needed.”

The mission team also included a dentist, a Michigan State University medical student, two pre-medicine students, a former paramedic and a military logistician.

In addition to clinic hours, the physicians and dentist spoke on various clinical, public health and professional topics, giving multiple seminars at major hospitals, including the area military hospital, the Institute of Tropical Diseases and the main 1,000-bed public teaching hospital that instructs 6,000 medical students across its campuses. Two School of Medicine-trained physicians were among the seminar attendees. Both returned to Paraguay to practice and teach. 

School of Medicine, Anderson Institute host 'Present a Challenge Day'
In Headlines on November 23, 2015
E. Mark Haacke, Ph.D., speaks at the event.

E. Mark Haacke, Ph.D., speaks at the event.

Engineers, biomedical scientists and entrepreneurs listen to project presentations.

Engineers, biomedical scientists and entrepreneurs listen to project presentations.

Sarah Draugelis talks about a portable electronic medical record system.

Sarah Draugelis talks about a portable electronic medical record system.

The Wayne State University School of Medicine and James and Patricia Anderson Engineering Ventures Institute held the second “Present a Challenge Day” in Scott Hall, organized with the hope of finding and forming interdisciplinary collaborative teams to create and implement real-world solutions.

The Nov. 20 event was attended by more than 40 clinicians, engineers, biomedical scientists, entrepreneurs, technology innovators and state economic development staff, who gathered to hear opportunities for innovative, problem-solving partnerships.

The event, sponsored by Wayne State’s Office of Technology Commercialization, the School of Medicine, the College of Engineering and the Anderson Institute, included several presentations, each outlining specific “challenges.” Projects ranged from developing a portable electronic medical records system to use in transient medical clinics to creating bone “cement” to heal bones after injury. The attendees then discussed matching the scientists with people, technologies and approaches that could provide solutions.

Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Stanley Terlecky, Ph.D., co-organized the event for the School of Medicine.

“The event exceeded even our most ambitious goals – providing an outstanding opportunity to connect technology innovators with biomedical problems,” Dr. Terlecky said. “It needs to become an annual tradition.”

Projects identified during the event were eligible to participate in the newly launched WSU-Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization Program. The program funds the development and commercialization of biomedical devices and materials.

“This event is the first of an ongoing series of steps intended to bring together engineers and biomedical investigators so strong partnerships can be formed that combine their respective expertise to address complex research problems,” said Sorin Draghici, Ph.D., associate dean for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the College of Engineering and director of its Anderson Institute.

Once partnerships are formed, the teams will work together, either performing traditional research or creating startup companies. Two teams were expected to be identified at a later date to participate in an entrepreneurship program in Europe next July, supported by the Anderson Institute.

“This process of assembling multi-disciplinary research teams and turning them loose on problems is an exciting undertaking, and we intend to include students in the next ‘Challenge Day’ offering,” added Daniel Walz, Ph.D., associate dean of Research and Graduate Programs for the School of Medicine.

Arie organization celebrates clinical education initiative with Developmental Disabilities Institute families
In Headlines on November 20, 2015
A child works on an art project at the reception.

A child works on an art project at the reception.

"Wheel of Fortune" was a popular activity at the reception.

"Wheel of Fortune" was a popular activity at the reception.

Students pose with a winning family.

Students pose with a winning family.

First- and second-year medical students involved in the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Arie Foundation Co-Curricular Clinical Initiative reunited in the Margherio Family Conference Center Nov. 12 with seven families from the Wayne State University Developmental Disabilities Institute.

The collaborative initiative, now in its second year, provides medical students the opportunity to take their medical education out of the classroom by working with families from Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties who have children with intellectual, physical and developmental disabilities. The Developmental Disabilities Institute, Michigan’s Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, provides training for the students and recruits participating families.

The Arie Foundation is a School of Medicine student organization that provides support and comfort to pediatric patients and their families by hosting weekly “Wheel of Fortune” nights at Children's Hospital of Michigan.

The Nov. 12 reception on campus included a slideshow with photos of the families with School of Medicine students, and reflections about the program. The children and their families also participated in several activities, including art projects, a “Wheel of Fortune” game for prizes and more.

We had many activities for the students and children that kept them engaged, and you could tell everyone was really enjoying themselves,” said second-year medical student Crystal Zhang, an Arie Foundation coordinator. “The whole event went very smoothly, and it was wonderful to see all our hard work pay off and be able to watch the students and families interact in a mutually-rewarding experience.”

The Arie coordinators for 2015-2016 – Zhang, Xiaofan Mi and Jessica Tsuei, Class of 2018; and Molly Belisle and Kaitlyn Dobesh, Class of 2019 – executed the program and partnership from September 2015 to November 2015 under the guidance of director of Co-Curricular Programs Jennifer Mendez, Ph.D.

The project included two one-hour visits with each family to complete an open-ended questionnaire to learn about the child’s disabilities, the challenges the family encounters, and their positive and negative interactions with their health care system and health professionals. Another questionnaire assessed the family's attitudes and perception of the health profession. The students also provided families a tip card with helpful advice on office visit scheduling and encounters, two sample care notebooks documenting the child's health information and their education plans and future goals, and an emergency planning packet.

The students later compared how the families’ perceptions of and attitudes toward the health profession may have changed after interacting with the students, and how the provided resources may have made navigating the health system easier. Students also made follow-up phone calls one month after the initial visit, and provided information about organizations that support children with developmental disabilities, and information about accessing community mental health, respite and dental services that accept Medicaid insurance, if requested.

The children and their families received small gifts and/or gift cards to thank them for their participation. Medical students were awarded eight hours of co-curricular credit for participation.

The initiative is expected to continue with the same families in spring 2016.

Longtime faculty member Dr. Joel Ager Jr. dies at age 87
In Headlines on November 19, 2015
Joel Ager, Ph.D.

Joel Ager, Ph.D.

Joel Ager Jr., Ph.D., a longtime faculty member of the Wayne State University School of Medicine, has died.

Dr. Ager died Nov. 15. He was 87. His family is honoring his request that there be no funeral or services.

At the time of his death, preparations were under way to have him named professor emeritus.

Dr. Ager joined Wayne State University as an assistant professor of Psychology in 1958, rising to the rank of full professor in 1975. After he retired from the Department of Psychology in 1998, he continued working with the university.

Colleagues said he helped launch the Center for Healthcare Effectiveness Research in 1994, and served as its interim director from 1995 to 1997. Dr. Ager became a member of the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences in 2006 when CHER and Community Medicine were merged. He continued his research as a part-time faculty member until his death.

“Joel was a highly intelligent, knowledgeable and very creative  scientist,” said Robert Sokol, M.D., recently retired John M. Malone Jr., M.D., Endowed Chair and director of the C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth & Development at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. “Many statisticians can run canned stat programs, and that’s not to be sneezed at. Joel was able to understand the problem and create solutions to some very difficult problems. He was a superb practical biomedical/psychological statistician.

“His legacy is not only in the large number of excellent publications in which he participated, but even more importantly in the remarkable number of master’s and doctoral prepared statisticians he trained, many here at Wayne, but now dispersed nationally,” Dr. Sokol added. “Most had instilled in them the same enthusiasm for research and for getting the right answer, so to speak, that were Joel’s hallmark. Great universities depend on ‘lifers’ like Joel, who contribute year after year, indeed decade after decade, providing outstanding teaching, research and mentoring.”

Dr. Ager served as a principal investigator for four National Institutes of Health grants on the topic of family planning services provision and as co-principal investigator for numerous other grants, including a number in the area of the effects of fetal exposure to alcohol and drugs on child development.

“Joel Ager was an unsung hero, an exceptional intellect, who made the academic community at Wayne State University a better place for his capacity to bring relevance to sometimes arcane research, for his commitment to supporting and promoting young faculty and students in their research careers – and personally - for his sage advice and sometimes amusing insights into the intrigues of an inscrutable academic community,” said Michael Massanari, M.D., former director of the Center for Healthcare Effectiveness Research. “He will be missed, but his contributions to this and other communities will live on through the lives and careers of those he has influenced.”

Many of Dr. Ager’s students have gone on to become respected experts in their fields of study, including Norine Johnson, a former president of the American Psychological Association, and James Prochaska, who developed the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change.

He is survived by his children, Joel Ager III (Christine); John Ager (Cyndi) and Catherine Ager; his sister, Patricia (Mark) Lewis; and five grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife, Elizabeth, in1995.

Pioneering WSU/DMC program to reduce preterm birth spearheads Prematurity Awareness Month
In Headlines on November 17, 2015
Sonia Hassan, M.D.

Sonia Hassan, M.D.

Ask Detroit Medical Center emergency room nurse Jodie M. Cole, R.N., what she thinks of the March of Dimes-sponsored “Prematurity Awareness Month” and the veteran health care provider lights up like Comerica Park for a Tigers night game.

“As the mother of a premature baby who spent 26 days in the (DMC Hutzel Women’s Hospital) Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, I’m a huge fan of the DMC’s ongoing campaign to reduce preterm birth,” Cole said. “When my 3-year-old Billy was born prematurely at Hutzel, I got an up-close look at just how hard it is for these premature babies to survive. Billy spent nearly a month in the NICU, but we were fortunate because he got through it and he’s doing just fine today.

“That experience taught me the vital importance of doing everything we can to prevent preterm-birth in Detroit, which currently has an 18 percent rate of premature-infant delivery. We’ve got to do better than that, which is why I’m really excited about serving as a volunteer-educator during the November March of Dimes Prematurity Awareness Month.”

Like Cole, a pioneering team of Wayne State University and DMC medical researchers has been making a determined effort to reduce the city’s preterm-birth rate, which is the leading cause of infant mortality.

Sonia Hassan, M.D., associate dean for Maternal, Perinatal and Child Health at WSU and a clinician at Hutzel Hospital, is one of the dedicated team of researchers who achieved a major breakthrough a few years ago – after determining via exhaustive studies that women with short cervixes may be 50 percent more likely to deliver their babies early.

The research team at Wayne State University and the National Institutes of Health’s Perinatology Research Branch hosted at WSU made international headlines with that discovery and with a follow-up finding that vaginal progesterone therapy significantly reduces the rate of premature delivery in women with short cervixes.

A joint finding by the WSU School of Medicine and the Perinatology Research Branch – which is housed at Hutzel -- the progesterone breakthrough brought worldwide attention to the Detroit campaign to lower preterm-birth rates in an urban population that has long been plagued by them.

In May 2014, supported by the Detroit Mayor’s Office, the same WSU/DMC team launched a massive campaign to attack the preterm-birth problem by helping to educate future mothers and helping them get the prenatal care that can greatly reduce the risk of delivering babies early. That program, called Make Your Date, is designed to help both providers (via Continuing Medical Education courses) and patients – along with health insurers – better understand how they can benefit from the breakthroughs in understanding the relationship between a short cervix and preterm birth, along with the benefits of progesterone and other effective therapies developed at WSU and the PRB. Make Your Date also provides services and connections, such as transportation assistance, participant incentives and educational sessions.

“It’s very clear that Detroit’s preterm-birth rate of 18 percent is a major public health problem,” Dr. Hassan said. “We are excited by the implementation of the current treatments, however, our work in this area is certainly not done.”

As a member of the National Prematurity Research Initiative Advisory Committee for the March of Dimes and co-chair of the Make Your Date program, Dr. Hassan explained the importance Prematurity Awareness Month plays in education on this issue.

“The local rate of preterm birth is similar to that in economically challenged countries such as Malawi,” she added, “and lowering it is an essential goal if we want to improve infant mortality statistics in Detroit and elsewhere in the United States.”

Dr. Hassan also noted that Detroit Mayor Michael Duggan last year “asked that we develop a preterm-birth reduction plan, and we went to work right away at creating the Make Your Date program. The bottom line on this effort is clear: It’s aimed at helping mothers-to-be to connect with the prenatal care they need in order to hopefully avoid the hazards of preterm birth. That care should include appropriate ultrasound testing and diagnostics intended to identify pregnant patients with a short cervix so they can be treated with progesterone therapy where indicated. To accomplish that goal, we’re very pleased to have the assistance of the March of Dimes and its Prematurity Awareness Campaign, which will continue throughout November.”

Kara Hamilton-McGraw, state director of Program Services and Government Affairs for the Michigan Chapter of the March of Dimes, echoed Dr. Hassan’s determination to combat preterm birth in Detroit and Michigan.

“One in 10 babies are born too soon and may face lifelong consequences due to their early birth,” Hamilton-McGraw said. “The March of Dimes and our partner organizations such as the Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University ask everyone to spread the word on the serious problem of preterm birth.”

For more information on the Make Your Date program, or to support its efforts, visit or call 313-577-1000.

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