School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine
Ambassador's Top Docs list honors five WSU faculty physicians
In Headlines on May 21, 2015
Sonia Hassan, M.D.

Sonia Hassan, M.D.

Lawrence Lum, M.D.

Lawrence Lum, M.D.

Elisabeth Heath, M.D.

Elisabeth Heath, M.D.

Dena Nazer, M.D.

Dena Nazer, M.D.

Scott Dulchavsky, M.D., Ph.D.

Scott Dulchavsky, M.D., Ph.D.

Five of the 13 physicians named to Ambassador magazine’s 2015 Top Docs list published this month are Wayne State University School of Medicine faculty members. They include Associate Dean of Maternal, Perinatal and Child Health Sonia Hassan, M.D., Class of 1994, who is honored for her ongoing work to reduce preterm birth rates in Detroit, including her leadership role with the City of Detroit’s Make Your Date campaign, which provides free prenatal care and education to women across Detroit’s major health systems.

Dr. Hassan led a 2011 study that found the use of progesterone gel in mothers who were identified to be at risk for premature birth due to a short cervix – found by ultrasound – cut that risk by nearly half. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s Infant Mortality Reduction Plan promotes the adoption of universal cervical length screening by ultrasound and progesterone use for women identified as high risk.

“There are so many factors that will influence a person’s health while they’re in utero,” she told the magazine. “It’s a unique chance to affect someone’s life in the beginning, which is very rewarding.”

Dr. Hassan is director of the Center for Advanced Obstetrical Care and Research at the National Institutes of Health’ s Perinatology Research Branch, hosted by Wayne State University and housed at the Detroit Medical Center. She sees patients through the Wayne State University Physician Group Obstetrics and Gynecology clinic at Hutzel Women’s Hospital in Detroit.

Professor of Oncology Lawrence Lum, M.D., is recognized as a Top Doc for his research focused on complex treatments that enhance the body’s own immune system to attack and disarm cancerous cells. His passion for treating disease started in junior high school, when he learned about the work of physician and philosopher Albert Schweitzer, he tells the magazine. The Wayne State University Physician Group doctor sees patients at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit.

His Karmanos colleague, Professor of Oncology Elisabeth Heath, M.D., is also named a Top Doc by Ambassador. She directs prostate cancer research at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute. She is also a member of the Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials Program, a 13-member top academic center consortium of research leaders working to further translational prostate cancer research and clinical trials.

Top Doc and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Dena Nazer, M.D., is chief of the child protection team at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, treating children who have been victims of mental, physical and sexual abuse or neglect. “I always think about how they should be treated, not how they’re mistreated,” she told Ambassador. “I remember them as children, not as victims.”

Dr. Nazer completed her residency in general pediatrics and a year of chief residency at Children’s with the School of Medicine. She is the first and only person in the state to complete a two-year fellowship in child abuse pediatrics, and was named to Gov. Rick Snyder’s new Human Trafficking Health Advisory Board earlier this year.

Professor of Surgery, Molecular Biology and Genetics Scott Dulchavsky, M.D., Ph.D., Class of 1983, was recognized by the magazine for his role in creating the Henry Ford Innovation Institute, which he now heads as its chief executive officer. The space, inside Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, is designed for creativity and inventive thinking, two of Dr. Dulchavsky’s career hallmarks. He works with NASA, serving as a principal investigator for the agency and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute in Houston to help provide medical care to astronauts via telemedicine.

WSU neurologists publish novel MRI technique to diagnose, monitor Parkinson's
In Headlines on May 21, 2015
Omar Khan, M.D.

Omar Khan, M.D.

Navid Seraji-Bozorgzad, M.D.

Navid Seraji-Bozorgzad, M.D.

Researchers in the Sastry Advanced Imaging Laboratory and Movement Disorders in the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology have published a novel magnetic resonance imaging technique to quantify in-vivo tissue loss in the brains of patients with Parkinson’s disease.

The study published in the Movement Disorders Journal, the official journal of the World Movement Disorders Society, is the first to demonstrate longitudinal loss of dopaminergic cellular loss in the substantia nigra, a pathologic hallmark of Parkinson’s disease.

Omar Khan, M.D., professor and chair of WSU Neurology and the study’s principal investigator, said, “The value of biomarkers in early diagnosis and development of therapeutics in Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders is a critical need,” said Omar Khan, M.D., professor and chair of WSU Neurology and the study’s principal investigator. “We used proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy in a prospective, longitudinal study of patients with early Parkinson’s disease, naïve to dopaminergic therapy, and compared to age-matched healthy controls to examine the temporal changes in the metabolic profile of substantia nigra over a period of three months. In 90 days from baseline, total N-acetyl aspartate (neuronal metabolic marker) had decreased by 4.4 percent, which was a significant decline compared to age-matched controls that did not demonstrate any change.”

This is the first longitudinal MRS study of substantia nigra in Parkinson’s disease, he said. Previous studies were either cross-sectional, lagged refined acquisition parameters or often incorporated a single voxel.

Navid Seraji-Bozorgzad, M.D., assistant professor of Neurology and associate director of the Sastry Advanced Imaging Laboratory, is the lead author of the study. He developed the novel technique of “side-to-side asymmetry” used in the study.

“Patients with early Parkinson’s disease develop asymmetric loss of dopaminergic neurons in the right and left substantia nigra,” he said. “This often correlates with unilateral symptoms such as tremor before patients develop symptoms bilaterally. Our results showed that the side-to-side asymmetry was 16.7 percent in patients with Parkinson’s disease compared to 1.6 percent in age-matched healthy controls. This is a remarkable potential diagnostic tool that needs to be explored in large multi-center studies and has the potential to assist in the diagnosis of patients suspected with early Parkinson’s disease, when making the clinical diagnosis can be challenging.”

Edwin George, assistant professor of Neurology and director of the Movement Disorders Center, said, “This is an exciting discovery that has potentially significant clinical implications not only in confirming the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease but also in developing novel therapeutic agents incorporating this biomarker approach.”

Dr. Khan, director of the Sastry Foundation Advanced Imaging Laboratory, said this approach “has the potential to accelerate the development of potential therapies that may alter disease course in Parkinson’s disease. We are very fortunate to have the support of the Sastry Family Foundation, and are optimally poised to seek major external grants as well as develop collaborations to conduct validation studies.”

School celebrates faculty promotions and tenure appointments
In Headlines on May 20, 2015
Dean Jack D. Sobel, M.D., and Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs Virginia Delaney-Black, M.D., M.P.H., congratulate Phillip Levy, M.D., M.P.H., upon his receiving tenure and promotion to the rank of professor.

Dean Jack D. Sobel, M.D., and Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs Virginia Delaney-Black, M.D., M.P.H., congratulate Phillip Levy, M.D., M.P.H., upon his receiving tenure and promotion to the rank of professor.

Zhe Yang, Ph.D., is congratulated by Dean Sobel and Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs Virginia Delaney-Black for receiving tenure.

Zhe Yang, Ph.D., is congratulated by Dean Sobel and Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs Virginia Delaney-Black for receiving tenure.

The Wayne State University School of Medicine administration and faculty celebrated the granting of tenure to six of its members and the promotion of others during the annual Promotion and Tenure Reception.

The event, produced by Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs Virginia Delaney-Black, M.D., M.P.H., and the Office of Faculty Affairs and Professional Development, took place May 20 in the Margherio Family Conference Center.

“This is one of the most joyous ceremonies,” said Jack D. Sobel, interim dean of the School of Medicine. “There is no question that this year we have a bumper crop (of promotions and tenure awards). We have one of the most successful promotion and tenure committees on the main campus … . This year we have more people being promoted and granted tenure than in years gone by. It’s a tribute to your success, your ability to achieve grants, publish and your academic prowess that is so crucial to this institution. You are the life blood of this place.”

Faculty awarded tenure during the ceremony include Hayley Thompson, Ph.D., Oncology; Phillip Levy, M.D., M.P.H., Emergency Medicine; Alana Conti, Ph.D., Neurological Surgery; Zhengqing Hu, M.D., Ph.D., Otolaryngology; Sokol Todi, Ph.D., Pharmacology and Neurology; and Zhe Yang, Ph.D., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

“Receiving tenure is an incredible affirmation of the value that the university places on my contributions to the scientific community,” said Dr. Levy, who has been a faculty member for 13 years. “It represents trust and faith in who I am as an academician and mentor, while signifying an expectation that I will continue to impact my chosen field of cardiovascular research. I am humbled and honored by this recognition and look forward to producing high-quality work for years to come under the WSU banner.”

Dr. Todi has been a faculty member for four and one-half years. “To me, achieving tenure means that my peers see significant value to my contributions to the university, the immediate community and to the scientific community more generally,” he said. “It also means that I will need to work even harder to justify this great achievement.”

Dr. Yang, an eight-year member of the faculty, said tenure means “I can completely concentrate on research, teaching and service, and explore new ideas.”

Faculty promoted to the rank of professor include:

Robert Akins, Ph.D., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Eishi Asano, M.D., Ph.D., Pediatrics and Neurology

Donald DeGracia, Ph.D., Physiology

Hong-Qiang Heng, Ph.D., Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics, and Pathology

Ikuko Kato, M.D., Ph.D., Oncology and Pathology

Thomas Kocarek, Ph.D., Pharmacology and the Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Ladislau Kovari, Ph.D., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Phillip Levy, M.D., M.P.H., Emergency Medicine

Jeffrey Zonder, M.D., Oncology

Steven Ondersma, Ph.D., Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, and the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute

Kaladhar Reddy, Ph.D., Pathology

Malathy Shekhar, Ph.D., Oncology and Pathology

Gen Sheng Wu, Ph.D., Oncology and Pathology

Bret Hughes, M.D., Ophthalmology

Chokechai Rongkavilit, M.D., Pediatrics

Elizabeth Secord, M.D., Pediatrics

Lami Yeo, M.D., Obstetrics and Gynecology

Indrin Chetty, Ph.D., Oncology

Faculty promoted to the rank of associate professor include:

Alana Conti, Ph.D., Neurological Surgery

Alan Dombkowski, Ph.D., Pediatrics

Zhengqing Hu, M.D., Ph.D., Otolaryngology

Thomas Sanderson, Ph.D., Emergency Medicine

Sokol Todi, Ph.D., Pharmacology and Neurology

Zhe Yang, Ph.D., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Brian Ference, M.D., M.Phil., M.Sc., F.A.C.C., Internal Medicine

Jorge Lua, M.D., Pediatrics

Mary Morreale, M.D., Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences

Ali Gabali, M.D., Ph.D., Pathology

Sandra Narayanan, M.D., Neurological Surgery and Neurology

Radhakrishnan Ramchandren, M.D., Oncology

Abdulghani Sankri, M.D., Ph.D., Internal Medicine

Nicholas Szerlip, M.D., Neurological Surgery

Angela Trepanier, M.S., C.G.C., Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics

Zhihong Wang, M.D., Ph.D., Pediatrics

Giancarlo Zuliani, M.D., Otolaryngology

Krishnarao Maddipati, Ph.D., Pathology

Bo Wang, Ph.D., Pediatrics

Doina David, M.D., Pathology

Dongping Shi, M.D., Pathology

School says farewell to Dean Valerie M. Parisi
In Headlines on May 20, 2015
Dr. Parisi and Vice Dean Maryjean Schenk share a moment during the reception.

Dr. Parisi and Vice Dean Maryjean Schenk share a moment during the reception.

Dr. Parisi and her husband Gary listen to comments from her colleagues.

Dr. Parisi and her husband Gary listen to comments from her colleagues.

Dr. Parisi with her official portrait.

Dr. Parisi with her official portrait.

Faculty, staff and leadership of the Wayne State University School of Medicine gathered to say farewell to former Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., and for the unveiling of her official portrait, which will hang in Scott Hall with those of the school’s former deans.

The May 19 reception, held in the Margherio Family Conference Center, honored Dr. Parisi, who last fall announced that she was leaving to accept a position leading Academic Affairs for the University of South Florida. The event took place a day after Dr. Parisi gave the keynote address for the Class of 2015 commencement ceremony, an honor given to her by the graduating students.

The portrait, an oil painting by Robert Maniscalco, features Dr. Parisi in her home, seated on a sofa with her two beloved poodles, Pinot and Chianti.

“Clearly, Valerie, the number of people here is testimony to the esteem and the affection people have for you. You’ll never be forgotten,” Interim Dean Jack D. Sobel said of Dr. Parisi. “You have the affection, respect and love of everybody here.”

Dr. Parisi, the school’s 15th dean, joined the School of Medicine in 2007 as vice dean of Clinical Affairs. She was named interim dean in July 2009 and then dean shortly thereafter. She was the school’s first female dean.

“I’m very grateful to have been here eight years,” said Dr. Parisi. “You all have done all the work … I was just here to facilitate and support you. You need to keep doing the wonderful work that you do because this school is so important to the students and to the state.”

Many of the speakers who paid tribute to Dr. Parisi spoke of her ongoing commitment to the school, to medicine, to medical education, and to her consistent theme of caring for others.

Steven Lipshultz, M.D., chair of Pediatrics, told of how when he came to Michigan to accept the chair position, she and her husband, Gary, showed up while he was moving into his new home with a hot meal and offering to help him get settled.

“Valerie is Valerie,” he said.

Wael Sakr, M.D, chair of Pathology, noted Dr. Parisi’s unflagging support of the department and faculty, even to the point of attending a department get-together at his home.

“Her real passion is for medical education and the students of Wayne State University,” Dr. Sakr said. “Her message of skills and compassion” reverberated with students.

Her legacy, said Brian O’Neil, M.D., chair of Emergency Medicine, is that “Wayne State University is a better university for the students themselves.”

Sonia Hassan, M.D., associate dean of Maternal, Perinatal and Child Health, told the audience how much she appreciated Dr. Parisi’s support during  the preparation of the university’s proposal for a second 10-year contract to host the Perinatology Research Branch, one of the most challenging periods of Dr. Hassan’s life.

Roberto Romero, M.D., D.Med.Sci, chief of the National Institutes of Health’s Perinatology Research Branch at Wayne State University, praised Dr. Parisi’s demeanor and professionalism, during the same period. The confidence Dr. Parisi instilled in NIH and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development officials contributed greatly to the university’s success in securing the second contract.

“She consistently gave the students – and all of us –the chance to focus on what’s most important: the patient relationship,” said Maryjean Schenk, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., vice dean of Medical Education. “People come and go, but this portrait will stay with us forever as a reminder long after Valerie is gone. She will forever stay in my heart and in my mind.”

Student James Malleis wins MS summer research scholarship to study with Dr. Dore-Duffy
In Headlines on May 19, 2015

The Class of 2018’s James Malleis is one of two Wayne State University School of Medicine medical students awarded a summer research scholarship from the Foundation of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers.

(Click here for a story on fellow summer research scholarship winner Andrew Kuo).

Malleis will work June 1 to Aug. 3 with WSU Professor of Neurology Paula Dore-Duffy, Ph.D., on the “Effect of mild hypoxia on T cell subsets in EAE.”

The project should yield significant new insights into how the brain buffers itself from injury and may lead to the identification of new targets for therapeutic intervention.

“This study is an extension of our earlier work looking at how the adaptive process initiated by mild hypoxic stress can be neuroprotective and ameliorate inflammatory mediated central nervous system disease,” Dr. Dore-Duffy said.

Malleis became interested in the research after reading several of her published papers. The Dore-Duffy lab has a long history of studying multiple sclerosis and the role of the blood-brain barrier in regulation bio-energetic homeostasis.

“The work feels pragmatic to me, as it has a potential for direct application to patients with multiple sclerosis. I have an uncle who suffers from the disease, so many of these ideas hit close to home. It feels inspiring to work on elucidating some of the mysteries of multiple sclerosis,” Malleis said. “I feel honored to have this opportunity to work with Dr. Dore-Duffy and grow my understanding of research methods. I am excited to see what our research will yield and feel optimistic about the work.”

Previous work in the lab found that exposure to low-oxygen environments appeared to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis in an animal model.

“Building upon this, we are attempting to use a low-oxygen environment as a treatment in this animal model. We hope to see an improvement in the inflammation of model lesions, potentially indicating applications for human patients,” he added.

Malleis will serve as the research assistant headlining the project. He hopes to find a therapeutic value in this low-oxygen treatment and increase the lab’s knowledge base of multiple sclerosis.

The professor hosted a CMSC scholar last summer as well.
Student Andrew Kuo wins MS summer research scholarship to study with Drs. Benjamins, Lisak
In Headlines on May 19, 2015
Andrew Kuo, Class of 2018

Andrew Kuo, Class of 2018

The Class of 2018’s Andrew Kuo is one of two Wayne State University School of Medicine medical students awarded a summer research scholarship from the Foundation of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers.

(Click here for a story on fellow summer research scholarship winner James Malleis).

Kuo began working May 12 with WSU Professors of Neurology Joyce Benjamins, Ph.D., and Robert Lisak, M.D., on the “Effect of ACTH on the Oligodendroglia Differentiation Pathway with Regards to Myelin Formation.”

“I am very honored and grateful that I was selected by the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers for their research scholarship. I definitely could not have achieved this without help from Dr. Benjamins and Dr. Lisak,” Kuo said.

He plans to continue conducting research several hours per week in the fall. Before attending the School of Medicine, Kuo worked as an engineer in China, California and Michigan. He hopes to incorporate his engineering and medical experience into designing medical devices that advance future neurological treatments.

“This research scholarship will enable me to gain a deeper understanding of MS as well as try to develop a treatment to help cure the disease,” he said. “In addition, the scholarship will provide a glimpse of what academic medicine is like, which is where I see myself in the future.”

Multiple sclerosis destroys brain cells called oligodendrocytes, which protect nerve cells from damage and produce insulating membranes called myelin that promote communication between nerve cells. While there are several treatments to regulate the immune system to slow disease progression in MS, there are no effective treatments to stop the ongoing death of nerve cells or repair damage within the brain.

Recent findings from the Benjamins and Lisak labs, using rodent brain cells grown in dishes, showed that a small protein, ACTH1-39, acts on melanocortin receptors to protect nerve cells from death and promote proliferation and maturation of precursor cells that can replace damaged oligodendrocytes.

To test the hypothesis that ACTH1-39 stimulates key pathways promoting maturation of the precursor cells, Kuo will analyze gene array data and protein changes in glial cultures treated with ACTH1-39.

“Knowing the mechanism of action of a drug is important for designing new drugs that might be even more effective and with fewer side effects. The results from my project may lead to studies in animal models with potential application to clinical trials in MS patients,” Kuo said.

He is attracted to the research because it attempts to treat the root causes of damage in MS rather than the symptoms. “In general, I believe the neurology field has a stigma in which doctors can identify what is wrong with a patient but are unable to actually cure the disease. If the research is successful, we can make a leap toward truly curing MS. However, I believe the implications of this research go beyond simply MS. The ability to stimulate oligodendroglial progenitor cells to remyelinate neurons can have a substantial impact on many other neurological diseases,” he added.

Dr. Benjamins’ research interests focus on glial biology and neuroprotection as they relate to multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative and developmental disorders affecting myelin.

“One of my projects, in collaboration with Dr. Lisak, is the identification and characterization of signaling pathways leading to protection of glia and neurons from damage. Recently, I have focused on the role of melanocortin receptors in the proliferation and differentiation of precursors of oligodendrocytes, the cells which form myelin,” she said.

Kuo is the 10th medical student to work in the Benjamins lab on a summer project, and the fourth to receive a CMSC scholarship.

“In each case, the CMSC awardees have been co-mentored by Dr. Lisak, given our collaborative basic research and his clinical experience in areas related to multiple sclerosis,” Dr. Benjamins said.

Older Articles