School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine
Orientation week begins for 290 freshmen medical students
In Headlines on July 28, 2014
The Wayne State University School of Medicine's orientation for new medical students began this week.

The Wayne State University School of Medicine's orientation for new medical students began this week.

The Class of 2018 will be the 150th class to graduate from the school of medicine since its founding in 1868.

The Class of 2018 will be the 150th class to graduate from the school of medicine since its founding in 1868.

Freshmen gathered in the Scott Hall cafeteria for the annual breakfast that kicks off orientation week.

Freshmen gathered in the Scott Hall cafeteria for the annual breakfast that kicks off orientation week.

A new class of 290 incoming medical students arrived in Detroit on Monday to what will likely be their home away from home for at least the next four years.

The Wayne State University School of Medicine’s faculty and staff welcomed the Class of 2018 at the traditional orientation breakfast in the Scott Hall cafeteria. It kicked off a series of events that began the day before with an off-campus ice cream social and ends Friday with the traditional White Coat Ceremony at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall.

Throughout the rest of the week, students will attend several presentations about public safety, academic integrity, budgeting and insurance; meet clinical and basic science faculty and upperclassmen at orientation lunches; explore midtown Detroit during walking tours of the medical campus; and participate in hands-on community service activities hosted by some of the school’s more than 60 student organizations.

The new class includes 173 men and 117 women ranging from 20 to 46 years old and representing 15 states and Canada. The most common name for male students is John; for females, it is Alexandra, Amanda and Monica. While all the students have earned an undergraduate degree, 48 also have a master’s degree and three have a doctorate, including one juris doctor. The class includes a competitive rifle shooter, hockey players, dancers, musicians, painters, a fitness assistant to the disabled, an emergency medical technician, a construction worker and a perfusion assistant.

School of Medicine Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., was among the school’s leadership to welcome the students and offer words of encouragement to those accepted out of 4,588 applicants.

“You did it. You deserve to be here,” she said. “Learn to enjoy your journey.”

Classes begin Aug. 4.

Karmanos awards American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grants
In Headlines on July 23, 2014
Five cancer researchers from Wayne State University and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute have received American Cancer Society - Institutional Research Grant funds of $30,000 each for one year to help fund their research.

The focus of their research ranges from preventing breast cancer recurrence to developing new 4D lung cancer imaging techniques to a study of acute graft versus host disease in stem cell transplantation.

The ACS-IRG grant funds are managed and administered by the Karmanos Cancer Institute. Each year applications are solicited from junior researchers at both WSU and Karmanos. This year the grant committee received 14 applications and, following peer-review, selected the following five researchers to receive grants:

Abhinav Deol, M.D., assistant professor of oncology, for “The role of B lymphocytes in human acute graft versus host disease in recipients of allogeneic stem cell transplantation.”

Haipeng Liu, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science, for “Preventing breast cancer recurrence with albumin-hitchhiking molecular vaccines.”

Kristen Purrington, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of oncology, for “Histopathologic features of triple negative breast cancer in African American women: associations with gene expression and clinical outcomes” (Health Disparities Research Award).

Joseph Rakowski, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiation oncology, for “4D Lung Tomosynthesis Imaging.”

Joshua Reineke, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, for “Desmoplastic pancreatic cancer model for novel therapeutic screening and translation.”

ACS-IRG funds provide seed money to support junior faculty members with an interest in cancer research who do not have national grant support. Investigators must be an assistant professor or equivalent and must be within six years of their first independent faculty appointment to be eligible for the grants.
Free MCAT summer prep course supports, recruits talented students to Wayne State
In Headlines on July 22, 2014
A student listens to a lecture at a recent MCAT Summer Workshop session.

A student listens to a lecture at a recent MCAT Summer Workshop session.

Up to 20 applicants per summer are selected for the course.

Up to 20 applicants per summer are selected for the course.

Session teachers are volunteers asked by the program coordinator to instruct on a specific subject.

Session teachers are volunteers asked by the program coordinator to instruct on a specific subject.

Incoming freshman medical student Brenton Kinker took the Medical College Admissions Test in early 2013 and was accepted to nine medical schools. He chose to attend the Wayne State University School of Medicine for several reasons, its MCAT course among them.

At the suggestion of a Wayne State librarian in 2012, Kinker applied and was accepted to the School of Medicine Office of Admissions, Diversity and Inclusion’s MCAT-Summer Workshop. The school has offered the free preparatory course since 2006, when it was launched as part of the school’s ongoing commitment to expand the pool of qualified applicants from underrepresented and underserved populations. The workshop, federally funded in its inaugural year only, was created as one of several pipeline programs designed to develop, promote and recruit talented students.

Applicants are selected based on a number of criteria, including when they plan to take the exam, whether the student has taken the exam before, past scores or likelihood of admission and expressed interest in the School of Medicine. Recent preliminary data shows that more than 30 participants have been admitted to Wayne State or plan to seek admission in the future.

“As a pipeline intervention, the (MCAT workshop) provides underrepresented students the opportunity to earn a more competitive MCAT score and successfully compete for admission to medical school by developing the critical skills necessary to improve their performance on this important exam,” said Premedical Program Coordinator Deborah Holland.

It also serves as a powerful recruiting tool since its teachers promote many of the unique opportunities Wayne State provides.

“I would not have known about the clinical experience or research strengths of the Wayne State University School of Medicine without the MCAT class instructors talking to us about their medical school experience,” Kinker said. “I thought a medical school that cared enough about the community to give free MCAT courses, no strings attached, was something I wanted to be a part of.”

Comparable commercial prep courses can cost thousands, said Kinker, who was hoping to change his career path shortly after graduating from law school.

“Because I was switching careers and rather broke, this class really made a difference to me. Without this class, I likely would not have had the success I did when applying to medical school,” he said.

Every summer, up to 20 students attend 12 three-hour classes in six weeks at the Richard J. Mazurek, M.D., Medical Education Commons. The last class this year is July 31.

“Like many others in the class, I was working full time while balancing prerequisite science courses and MCAT studying. The teachers were excellent, and homed us in on the key areas we needed to know for the test,” Kinker said. “My class had a great esprit de corps, and I still keep in touch with some of my classmates and teachers. More than anything else, this class gave me access to resources that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive. We were given multiple practice tests, books and access to current medical students who not only taught us MCAT tricks, but guided us through the complex process of applying to medical school.”

Holland organizes a series of instructional activities, including lectures, study groups, discussion, application and practice related to exam elements for each of the 12 sessions. Workshop sessions focus on specific strategies to increase test-taking skills in each of the MCAT subtext areas. Each session is devoted to a particular section to improve knowledge of effective test-taking strategies in the three major topic areas necessary for success on the MCAT: biological science, physical science and verbal reasoning.

While commercial MCAT prep courses focus primarily on test-taking skills, Wayne State’s program utilizes a comprehensive strength-based approach, Holland said.

“This evidence-based approach incorporates several core elements from the exemplary Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland-Baltimore that promotes both collective- and self-efficacy. In addition to test-taking skills, the WSU-MCAT-SW is carefully organized to provide each new cohort with successful role models, peer study group support, supportive values, a sense of community and personal counseling.”

The sessions are taught by volunteer instructors who are usually Wayne State medical students, with some earning financial aid when eligible through the School of Medicine’s work study program.

“An increasing number of the dedicated instructors are former workshop students who were admitted (here) and are a special source of inspiration as role models for current participants,” Holland said.

They include Kinker. The Class of 2018 student scored so well on the verbal reasoning portion of the exam that he is among this year’s crop of volunteer teachers.

“I was given a remarkable opportunity with this class. It would be remiss of me not to help others as I was,” Kinker said. “Sections are assigned based on instructor expertise and comfort with the subject matter. I attended law school at the University of Michigan, and because my verbal reasoning scores on the MCAT were strong, I was asked to teach verbal reasoning.”

Kresge Eye Institute fellow wins grant to investigate post-surgery eye infection treatments
In Headlines on July 18, 2014
Pawan Kumar Singh, Ph.D., sitting, poses in the lab with Ashok Kumar, Ph.D.

Pawan Kumar Singh, Ph.D., sitting, poses in the lab with Ashok Kumar, Ph.D.

Wayne State's Fight for Sight alumni include, from left, Mark Juzych, M.D., Pawan Kumar Singh, Ph.D., and Ashok Kumar, Ph.D.

Wayne State's Fight for Sight alumni include, from left, Mark Juzych, M.D., Pawan Kumar Singh, Ph.D., and Ashok Kumar, Ph.D.

A research fellow at the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Kresge Eye Institute was awarded $20,000 to examine optimal treatments for bacterial endophthalmitis, a vision-threatening complication of cataract and other ocular surgeries.

The New York-based nonprofit Fight for Sight has given Pawan Kumar Singh, Ph.D., one of eight one-year postdoctoral research grants announced last month. He is a research fellow in the lab of Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and of Anatomy and Cell Biology Ashok Kumar, Ph.D.

“Fight for Sight awards are highly competitive and selected by a prominent scientific panel chosen by the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology,” Dr. Kumar said. “We thank the scientific review panel’s enthusiasm for our research endeavors.”

Dr. Singh will utilize a mouse model with bacterial endophthalmitis to investigate the role of neurotrophins in retinal neuronal survival under infectious conditions. Since certain neurotrophins have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for retinal degenerative diseases, assessing their mechanisms of endogenous production and action could be beneficial in the management of intraocular infections, he said.

“I feel very excited about receiving this award and would like to thank my mentor, Dr. Kumar, for his training and support in my career development; Dr. Fu-Shin Yu, professor and director of Research at KEI; and Dr. Mark Juzych (chair of ophthalmology) for providing the letters of recommendation,” Dr. Singh said. “I would also like to thank Dr. Linda Hazlett, professor and chair of Anatomy and Cell Biology, for her constant encouragement. This fellowship is an important first step toward becoming an independent vision research scientist and is definitely a stepping stone in my research career.”

Bacterial endophthalmitis requires prompt diagnosis and treatment to prevent vision loss. It is one of the most severe complications of cataract surgery, one of the most common surgical procedures performed on the aging population worldwide, Dr. Kumar said.

“As the aged population in the United States is expected to grow dramatically in the next few decades, the number of cataract surgeries performed will also increase exponentially, resulting in a proportional increase in the incidence of endophthalmitis,” he said. “Additionally, the increased use of multiple intravitreal (inside the eye) injections for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macula will also add to these numbers.”

Intravitreal antibiotic injections are the standard of care, but the Kumar lab believes an effective treatment for bacterial endophthalmitis should aim for both bacterial eradication and inflammation resolution.

“The antibiotics alone, while destroying the bacteria, also release lipopolysaccharides, lipoteichoic acid and peptidoglycan from bacterial cell walls, which in turn add to the inflammatory response, resulting in inflammation-mediated retinal neuronal and photoreceptor cell death,” he said. “The optimal treatment approach for diseases involving inflammation-sensitive tissue, such as the retina, should include the development of immunomodulatory therapies that promote the rapid resolution of inflammation and neuro-protection.”

Fight for Sight was founded in 1946 as the first organization in the U.S. to promote eye research. It has awarded more than $20 million toward 3,000 research grants, including to several KEI staff. Dr. Juzych, KEI director, received a medical student fellowship in 1988; Dr. Kumar was the recipient of a postdoctoral award in 2005 and a grant-in-aid in 2007; and Gary Abrams, M.D., former chair of ophthalmology, received research awards from the organization.

Wayne State medical students secure grant to boost Cass Clinic's critical insulin supply
In Headlines on July 18, 2014
A Wayne State medical student listens to a patient's heart at Cass Clinic.

A Wayne State medical student listens to a patient's heart at Cass Clinic.

A Cass Clinic patient gets his ear examined by a Wayne State medical student.

A Cass Clinic patient gets his ear examined by a Wayne State medical student.

Students listen to a patient during the interview process.

Students listen to a patient during the interview process.

A clinic founded in the 1970s to provide free medical care, prescriptions and flu shots to the uninsured and underinsured in Detroit will soon have a steady supply of insulin, the clinic’s most essential medicine, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the DMC Foundation.

Neha Mehta, a second-year medical student at the Wayne State University School of Medicine who was the clinic’s financial coordinator last year, estimates the clinic turns away a minimum of 12 patients per month because of a lack of insulin. A 10-milliliter vial ranges from $58 to $219. When the clinic runs out, students have to refer patients to other clinics or a pharmacy.

An estimated 23.6 million people in the United States have diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. About 90 percent to 95 percent have type 2, which is treated with insulin to maintain healthy levels of glucose in the bloodstream.

“Since it is a very expensive medication, and our clinic runs completely off donations, we always struggled to maintain a steady supply,” Mehta said. “Being able to get such a sizable donation will allow us to have a steady supply at least for a few months. Insulin has by far the highest demand and the smallest supply at our clinic, which is why having funding to supply insulin is that much more important.”

First- and second-year Wayne State medical students see more than 500 new patients annually and 2,250 patients total per year at the clinic. The majority of patients come to the clinic for management of chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and hypertension. The students, under the direct supervision of an attending physician, practice taking histories and perform physical exams. Student volunteers earn co-curricular credit for serving at the clinic, which is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays in the Cass Community Center at 3745 Cass Ave. in Detroit.

Jennifer Wolf, a second-year medical student, is in charge of finances for the clinic’s 2014-2015 year. She volunteered during the 2013-2014 academic year as well.

“As a first-year medical student, I was eager to jump right into patient care. I feel that Cass Clinic gives medical students the perfect balance of independence in patient care, while still being under supervision of an attending physician,” Wolf said.

The students present and discuss each patient visit with the physician, then come up with a plan of care.

“Students aren't shadowing a physician here. We are the ones in direct contact with the patients and conducting the entire visit,” she added.

The students are responsible for counseling patients on healthy lifestyle changes and provide referrals to other free or low-cost clinics for care outside of Cass Clinic’s scope of services.

The DMC Foundation is dedicated to promoting the welfare of the general public in the metropolitan Detroit area through the support of health-related research, education and activities that benefit the community. It also awarded a $10,000 grant to support medical student efforts at the Wayne County Family Center in Westland.

The foundation is a supporting organization of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, and was created in 2010 to receive part of the charitable assets transferred from the Detroit Medical Center following its sale to Vanguard Health Systems.
Fundamental research by WSU paving way for development of first vaccine for heart diseases
In Headlines on July 16, 2014
Harley Tse, Ph.D.

Harley Tse, Ph.D.

Researchers at Wayne State University have made a fundamental discovery and, in subsequent collaboration with scientists at La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, are one step closer to the goal of developing the world’s first T-cell peptide-based vaccine for heart disease -- the No. 1killer in the nation.

Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the arterial walls, which thicken due to accumulation of fatty materials such as cholesterols and triglycerides. Blocking of arteries supplying blood to the heart is the underlying cause of many heart diseases. Nearly 600,000 Americans die of heart disease every year. Although cholesterol is believed to be a major factor in creating the plaque that leads to heart disease, immune inflammation is another important contributor in arterial plaque buildup. The goal of the vaccine is to reduce immune-based inflammation in the arteries, leading to decreased plaque buildup.

The scientists published their findings in the December 2013 issue of Frontiers in Immunology, in an article titled “Atheroprotective vaccination with MHC-II restricted peptides from ApoB-100.” Their experiments show proof of concept for the development of an autoantigen-specific vaccine for reducing the amount of atherosclerotic plaques in mice. If successful, the vaccine could aid in preventing heart disease and stop or reduce disease progression. In addition to heart disease, the vaccine could target strokes, which are also a product of plaque buildup in arteries.

The published work, performed in the laboratory of Klaus Ley, M.D., a prominent vascular biologist of LIAI, was based on the fundamental discovery by Harley Tse, Ph.D., professor of immunology and microbiology in Wayne State’s School of Medicine, and professor in Wayne State’s Cardiovascular Research Institute, and Michael Shaw, Ph.D., adjunct assistant professor of immunology and microbiology at Wayne State. Dr. Shaw and Dr. Tse are the first to demonstrate that two T cell epitopes of the autoantigen apoB100 are deeply involved in the development of the disease. Their novel discovery is reported in the article, “Identification of two Immunogenic T cell Epitopes of ApoB-100 and their Autoimmune Implications,” published in the April-June 2014 issue (volume 2) of the Journal of Immunology and Clinical Research.

“ApoB100 is an apolipoprotein of the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) particle, which is the notorious ‘bad cholesterol’ that contributes to the formation of plaques in the vessel wall,” Dr. Tse said. “Although T cells of the immune system are known to participate in the development of heart disease, by what and how these T cells are directed to act have not been elucidated. The lack of this knowledge has greatly hampered the development of immune peptide-based therapeutics to control the disease. With the discovery of the disease-causing T cell epitopes, we can now manipulate the activities of the T cells responding to these epitopes to control the disease."

Since immune T cells are normally activated by a short sequence (called an epitope), and not by the whole molecule of an antigen, Dr. Shaw and Dr. Tse conceptualized that finding the apoB100 epitopes capable of stimulating the disease causing (atherogenic) T cells is a prerequisite for understanding how these T cells are involved in heart disease development and for finding ways to control their adverse effects.

Based on this idea, they identified two short sequences (3501–3515 and 978–992) of ApoB100 (ApoB3501-3515 and ApoB978-992, also designated peptides P3 and P6, respectively) that were able to direct specific T cells to proliferate, as well as cause worsening atherosclerosis. This discovery is significant because it identifies the target T cells and makes it possible to manipulate this population of pathologic T cells away from their harmful activities.

The subsequent collaboration with Dr. Ley’s laboratory bears the first fruits of this effort.

Substantial funding for Dr. Tse’s research was provided by the Office of the Vice President for Research at Wayne State University.

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