School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine
Future Docs draws largest attendance yet
In Headlines on April 3, 2015
Nabiya Arshad helps Neala Callan, of Wyandotte, create a "brain hat."

Nabiya Arshad helps Neala Callan, of Wyandotte, create a "brain hat."

Cara Chadwell, 10, somewhat reluctantly holds a human brain.

Cara Chadwell, 10, somewhat reluctantly holds a human brain.

Samanatha Kaufman helps Matthew Campbell, 6, design a brain using Play-Doh.

Samanatha Kaufman helps Matthew Campbell, 6, design a brain using Play-Doh.

More than 470 children and their parents slipped into the world of medicine and science during Future Docs 2015 at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, the largest crowd yet for the annual event.

Sponsored by the School of Medicine’s Alumni Association, the March 28 event saw children explore the first two floors of Scott Hall and the Richard J. Mazurek, M.D., Medical Education Commons to engage in hands-on activities that explained various facets of medicine. Future Docs is designed to pique the interest of children with an early introduction and appreciation for science that may blossom into medical careers.

Future Docs also gives medical students the opportunity to give back to the community by working with the children.

“I believe we have to do more than just our studies, and I want to immerse myself in the community, especially since I’m from Chicago,” said Nabiya Arshad, 21, a first-year student, as she assisted 8-year-old Neala Callan in designing a “brain hat.” The interaction with young future scientists and physicians also played to Arshad’s desire to become a pediatrician.

Visitors learned about brain imaging, genes and genetics, how ultrasounds work and the role of the human heart. They also had their fingers encased in a plaster cast, and held and explored the human brain. Stations included a table where they could get temporary tattoos and a photo booth for fun.

Second-year student Ugo Ezekwemba, 29, of Detroit, helped children understand why helmets are so important in activities such as bicycling and skateboarding. He guided the children in designing a face on raw eggs, which were then encased in larger plastic eggs padded with bubble wrap. The children dropped their mini “helmeted heads” into a container on the floor, and then opened the plastic eggs to see whether their “heads” survived the impact intact.

“I volunteered during Reach Out to Youth (a similar program aimed at urban youth) and I wanted to pay it forward by working with kids,” said Ezekwemba, who is interested in a career in emergency medicine or surgery. “They need to see there are people like me in medicine. There was nothing like this when I was growing up.”

Katherine Salisbury, Ezekwemba’s partner at the egg brain drop station, agreed.

“I think we need to get kids interested in the sciences earlier,” said Salisbury, 31, of West Bloomfield, a first-year student interest in internal medicine or obstetrics and gynecology.

Judging by the exuberance the future docs displayed while learning, the event hit its mark. Who says science and learning can’t be fun?

Public Health students celebrate National Public Health Week April 6-11
In Headlines on March 31, 2015

Join the Wayne State University Public Health Student Organization in celebrating the 20th anniversary of the American Public Health Association’s National Public Health Week, April 6-11.

The WSU PHSO will mark the week with a series of free events you can join in to improve your health and the health of the community.

The schedule includes:

April 6: “Raising the Grade: Becoming a Healthier Nation” includes a cardio kickboxing group class from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30p.m. at the Mort Harris Recreation and Fitness Center, Room 250. The class is free to Wayne State University students.

April 7: “Starting From Zip: Improving Health Equity Across Barriers,” will feature keynote speaker Felicia Wasson of the Coca-Cola Co. presenting “Coca-Cola: Leading the Fight Against Obesity,” at 1 p.m. in Scott Hall, Room 3125.

April 8: “Building Momentum: Influential Members of the Public Leading the Way to the Healthiest Nation, ” an NPHW Twitter chat, will take place from 2 to 3 p.m. Follow NPHW @NPHW and use the official #NPHW hashtag.

April 9: “Building Broader Connections: Impacting Health by Expanding Partnerships,” a public health community mixer, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the MPH Offices, 3939 Woodward Ave., Detroit, in the second-floor conference room.

April 10: “Building on 20 Years of Success: Celebrate the 20th anniversary of National Public Health Week.” Participants can pledge their commitment by signing the American Public Health Association Pledge and Petition all day by following the Wayne State University Public Health Organization on Facebook and @WSUPHSO on Twitter for the appropriate links.

April 11: National Public Health Week’s last call. Create a healthier Detroit by joining PHSO in volunteering at the Gleaner’s Food bank from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Volunteers can gather at 2131 Beaufait, Detroit. Please email by April 8 to volunteer.

For questions and further information, email Wayne State University PHSO board members at

U.S. Sen. Peters introduces human trafficking bill at WSU School of Medicine
In Headlines on March 30, 2015
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters talks about his human trafficking bill before introducing Dean Jack D. Sobel, M.D.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters talks about his human trafficking bill before introducing Dean Jack D. Sobel, M.D.

Dean Sobel, flanked by Sen. Gary Peters and Angela Aufdemberge of Vista Maria, calls human trafficking "a very real tragedy and travesty taking place in our community."

Dean Sobel, flanked by Sen. Gary Peters and Angela Aufdemberge of Vista Maria, calls human trafficking "a very real tragedy and travesty taking place in our community."

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) used Wayne State University, his alma mater, as a springboard to spread the word about his new bill to combat human trafficking.

Peters, flanked by WSU School of Medicine Dean Jack D. Sobel, M.D., and Angela Aufdemberge, president and chief executive officer of Vista Maria, talked about the scourge of human trafficking during a March 30 news conference in the Margherio Family Conference Center at the school of medicine.

“This bill will help identify victims,” said Peters, a graduate of the WSU Law School. “The health care professional often has the first opportunity to identify victims of human trafficking. I’m hoping that the Wayne State University School of Medicine has the opportunity to become the leader in developing best practices to identify and assist victims.”

Senate Bill 205, the Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Act of 2015, has been introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. A companion bill has been introduced in the House.

The bill would provide for the development and dissemination of evidence-based best practices for health care professionals in recognizing victims of human trafficking and appropriate responses. If the bill is adopted, within one year of its passage the Secretary of Health and Human Services will competitively award a grant to an accredited school of medicine or nursing school with experience in the study or treatment of trafficking victims. The school selected for the grant will produce its developed best practices, including implementation of related training into the curriculum, within six months of receiving the funds.

Within 24 months of the grant’s award to a medical school, the Secretary of Health and Human Services would be required to post on its public website the best practices identified by the medical school and disseminate the information to health care profession schools.

“This is a very real tragedy and travesty taking place in our community, and the majority of its victims are the most vulnerable among us, many of them children,” Dean Sobel said. “It may shock you to learn that Michigan ranks second in the human trafficking sex trade behind only Nevada.”

He noted that earlier in March, Gov. Rick Snyder selected two WSU School of Medicine faculty members to serve on new state committees established to combat human trafficking. Herbert Smitherman Jr., M.D., M.P.H., assistant dean of Community and Urban Health and associate professor of Internal Medicine, serves on the Human Trafficking Commission. Dena Nazer, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics and chief of the Child Protection Center at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, serves on the Human Trafficking Health Advisory Board.

“The Wayne State University School of Medicine already plays a critical role in assisting the metropolitan Detroit community, providing health care to the underserved and underrepresented in many ways and through several free clinics,” Dean Sobel said. “Through our students (in education and training) and our clinicians, we have to learn to recognize this issue so that we can combat it.”

Aufdemberge, whose agency assists human trafficking victims, agreed that physicians can serve as a vital first-line of defense when providing care in primary care offices and emergency rooms.

“It’s more than physical abuse, there is often psychological damage,” she said. “Physicians can be a trusted source, to let victims know that they are looked at through their eyes differently and that there is someone who cares.”

Many times victims have extreme difficulty in revealing abuse because the traffickers are master manipulators who have replaced the parents or family in the eyes of the victims, Aufdemberge said. Victims can also fear coming forward or crying out because of coercion and threats.

Vista Maria is a Dearborn Heights-based member of the Michigan Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force. Human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery in which victims are forced into the sex trade or forced to work as slaves, is rapidly growing and is now considered the second-fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. In Michigan, according to Vista Maria, human trafficking is second only to illegal drug sales. Wayne County is home to an estimated 400 female victims younger than 18. The average age of a female victim is 12 to 14. The average age of male victims is 9 to 12.

“These children are not statistics; they are your neighbors’ children,” Aufdemberge said. “Please spread the word!”

National Geographic features findings of School of Medicine neuroscientists Sandra and Joseph Jacobson
In Headlines on March 30, 2015
Drs. Sandra and Joseph Jacobson

Drs. Sandra and Joseph Jacobson reported on the findings of two Wayne State University School of Medicine neuroscientists in its March 27 article, “How Brain-Damaging Mercury Puts Arctic Kids at Risk.”

Read the article here.

In a study published in the journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Sandra Jacobson, Ph.D., and Joseph Jacobson, Ph.D., both professors of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, discuss the adverse effects of prenatal methylmercury exposure on the IQs of schoolchildren in remote Arctic villages, where mothers regularly eat beluga whale, fish, seal and walrus, all traditional foods that are now contaminated with brain-damaging mercury.

“Domain-Specific Effects of Prenatal Exposure to PCBs, Mercury, and Lead on Infant Cognition: Results from the Environmental Contaminants and Child Development Study in Nunavik,” appears in the March 2015 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives. The Jacobsons conducted the research with researchers at longtime partnering institution Laval University in Quebec. Nunavik is a large Inuit territory in the northernmost part of the Canadian province. The study is the first to link prenatal mercury exposure to poor performance on an IQ test for schoolchildren, and adds considerable weight to the connection between seafood consumption and reduced mental ability in children.

“One of the real values of our research is that it addresses some of those differences in a completely independent study population and helps to reduce the degree of controversy,” Dr. Sandra Jacobson told National Geographic.

The scientists reported that the effect on the children’s IQs may have been stronger, yet the brain-benefiting fatty acids in their marine diet could be obscuring adverse effects. According to the study, the Nunavik population is among the most highly exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and mercury on earth because of long-range transport of the compounds by atmospheric and ocean currents. The compounds accumulate in the area’s fish and sea mammals.

In the study, the IQs of 282 Nunavik children 8 to 14 years old were compared with the amounts of mercury in their umbilical cord blood. The children traveled by plane from their villages to take the IQ tests. Nearly eight of every 10 women of childbearing age in some Nunavik villages have blood mercury levels exceeding Canada’s health guideline. On the IQ tests, the children with the highest mercury levels in their cord blood scored, on average, 4.8 points lower than children with lower levels, according to the study. Children with the highest levels were four times more likely to have an IQ below 80, the clinical cutoff for a learning disability.

The Jacobsons have studied the effects of in utero exposures environmental contaminants on infant and child development for more than 30 years, including in the United States and Michigan. PCBs have been banned here since the 1970s, but in the 1990s WSU scientists, including the Jacobsons, found that in utero exposure to PCBs in the Great Lakes was linked to memory and attention problems, abnormally weak reflexes in newborns, developmental delays, poorer visual and intellectual function, and more.

The current study supports public health recommendations in Nunavik aimed at limiting consumption of highly contaminated traditional foods, especially among women of childbearing age. Because of their low contaminant levels and high fatty acids concentrations, finfish species, such as Arctic char, which are also part of the traditional Inuit diet, are good substitutes for these foods.

The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (R01-ES007902), Northern Contaminants Program, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Health Canada, Hydro-Québec (Environmental Child Health Initiative) and the State of Michigan Lycaki-Young Fund.

Second WSU lipids symposium in Margherio Center April 22
In Headlines on March 30, 2015
Lina Obeid, M.D.

Lina Obeid, M.D.

Lipids@Wayne, the Wayne State University Bioactive Lipids Research Program, will present its second annual symposium April 22.

The symposium will address the vital roles of lipids in cellular processes required for normal physiological function, and will feature keynote speaker Lina Obeid, M.D., professor and vice dean for Research at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine.

The symposium will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. in the Margherio Family Conference Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. Admission is free, but advance registration is required by April 17 at The deadline for abstract submission is 5 p.m. April 8. Monetary prizes will be awarded for the three best poster presentations.

Dr. Obeid oversees the Office of Scientific Affairs, which facilitates the biomedical research enterprise of Stony Brook Medicine. She earlier served as the Medical University of South Carolina’s Boyle Professor of Medicine in the Division of Geriatrics and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and staff physician at the Ralph Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Charleston. While at MUSC, she expanded her research into the role and regulation of bioactive lipids in disease pathologies, with a focus on inflammation, cancer and aging. Her investigation of lipid signaling led her to become the first scientist to identify the role of ceramide as a regulator of cell death. She holds numerous National Institutes of Health grants, and while at MUSC she served as principal investigator of an $11.7 million Center for Biological Research Excellence core grant for lipid signaling.

Other speakers and their topics include:

Christina Leslie, Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics for National Jewish Health, in Denver, Colo. --“cPLA2 and eicosanoids: Regulators of Inflammation and innate immune responses.”

Dipak Panigrahy, M.D., assistant professor of Pathology for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard University -- “New direction in cancer research: Resolvin’ tumor growth with resolvins.”

Judith Storch, Ph.D., distinguished professor of Nutritional Sciences for Rutgers University -- “Mechanisms of cholesterol transport by Niemann-Pick C protein.”

Lukas Tamm, Ph.D., professor and vice chair of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics for the University of Virginia School of Medicine -- “Lipids matter in fast exocytotic membrane fusion.”

For further information, call 313-577-1018.

Dr. Feldman elected president of American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics
In Headlines on March 30, 2015
Gerald Feldman, M.D., Ph.D.

Gerald Feldman, M.D., Ph.D.

Gerald Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.M.G., professor of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Pathology, and Pediatrics for the Wayne State University School of Medicine, and medical director of the Division of Laboratory Genetics and Molecular Pathology for the Detroit Medical Center-University Laboratories, is the new president of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, the national professional organization for clinical and laboratory genetics professionals.

“The era of the genetic and genomic revolution is here," Dr. Feldman said. "New technologies, new treatments and identification of new genetic disorders will improve patient care in ways we could not have even envisioned a few years ago. I look forward to serving as president of the organization that is leading these efforts.”

Druing his time as president-elect, Dr. Feldman has worked with the ACMG committees that provide national guidance on issues like organizational structure and identifying conflicts of interest, which are critical as the scope of medical genetics continues to expand. He also chaired a task force that developed an updated scope of practice for board-certified medical genetics professionals. His broad background in medical education, clinical care, scientific research and laboratory management have been particularly valuable in these roles, making him ideally suited to represent the interests of ACMG members.

Dr. Feldman, who joined the WSU School of Medicine faculty in 1999, is program director for the Newborn Screening Metabolic Management Program at Children's Hospital of Michigan and program director for the Medical Genetics Residency and the Medical Biochemical Genetics Fellowship programs at the Detroit Medical Center/Wayne State University School of Medicine.

He divides his time between the clinical practice of medical genetics and inborn errors of metabolism, molecular diagnostics, and medical genetics education and training.

The author of more than 80 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters and reviews, his research interests include fragile X syndrome and cystic fibrosis. More recently, his interests have focused on newborn screening, specifically in the area of long-term follow-up and management.

Dr. Feldman has a special interest in medical genetics education. In 2004, he was a co-organizer of the first Banbury Summit on the future of medical genetics training. He served as president of the Association of Professors of Human and Medical Genetics from 2006 to 2008. He has been chair and a member of Michigan's Genetic Advisory, Newborn Screening and Metabolic Quality Improvement committees, and has served on a number of ACMG committees, including as program chair of the 2007 annual Clinical Genetics Meeting and as director of Clinical Genetics from 2005 to 2011.

His principal research interests are tied to the diagnosis and management of patients with genetic disorders. He is a co-investigator of the nationwide Inborn Errors of Metabolism Collaborative, a program supported by the National Institutes of Health to collect data and share best practices for the benefit of children who are born with rare genetic disorders in which the body cannot naturally metabolize certain fats, proteins and sugars in food. He also is program director and lead investigator for a statewide program awarded to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan by the Michigan Department of Community Health: the Newborn Screening Management Program. He has been part of a collaborative effort between Wayne State University, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, the Detroit Medical Center and Al-Quds University to develop newborn screening programs in Palestine.

“Dr. Feldman has a long history with ACMG, and through his extensive committee work, he’s taken an active role in steering us to where we are today,” said Michael Watson, Ph.D., ACMG executive director. “His institutional knowledge and experience working across the full spectrum of clinical genetics services and education will help our organization going forward, in an era when genomic information promises to play a bigger role in medicine than it ever has before."

The ACMG works to advance the practice of medical genetics and genomics by providing education, resources and a voice for more than 1,600 biochemical, clinical, medical and molecular geneticists, genetic counselors and other health care professionals. The organization advocates for quality genetic services in health care and in public health, and promotes the development of methods to diagnose, treat and prevent genetic disease.

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