School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine
Researcher receives $50,000 grant from Sky Foundation for pancreatic cancer research
In Headlines on August 25, 2014
Rafael Fridman, Ph.D.

Rafael Fridman, Ph.D.

Rafael Fridman, Ph.D., professor of pathology for the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, has been awarded a second-year $50,000 grant from Sky Foundation Inc., to fund his pancreatic cancer research. This brings the total funding from Sky Foundation for Dr. Fridman’s research to $100,000.

Dr. Fridman and his research colleague, Howard Crawford, Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., are collaborating to investigate what causes pancreatic cancer cells to become so deadly and resistant to chemotherapy. Their research focuses on the actions of a unique family of genes, known as Discoidin Domain Receptor, or DDR, kinases that act as sensors of the cancer microenvironment. These kinases signal a response to a web of collagen that is abundant in pancreatic cancer tissues and plays a critical role in the survival of tumor cells.

The research has the potential to identify DDRs as new targets for intervention.

“We are extremely grateful to receive another $50,000 grant from the Sky Foundation for our pancreatic cancer research,” Dr. Fridman said. “This funding will help us to clarify the expression and role of DDRs in experimental models of pancreatic cancer and in human tumor samples. It will also help determine the therapeutic effects of targeting DDRs in pancreatic cancer models. We hope that our research will one day contribute to the expansion of new drugs to help stop this deadly disease.”

The Sky Foundation Inc. is dedicated to raising awareness and funding research for the early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer.

Graduate Student Research Day set for Sept. 18
In Headlines on August 25, 2014
Randal Kaufman, Ph.D.

Randal Kaufman, Ph.D.

The 18th annual Wayne State University Graduate Student Research Day is set for Sept. 18 on the campus of the School of Medicine.

Graduate Student Research Day was developed to promote interaction among Wayne State University departments and students within biomedical research fields and increase awareness of research conducted by WSU graduate students. The event also provides many networking opportunities and produces collaborations among the various School of Medicine departments and those on main campus.

Graduate students who present their work in either oral or poster format will be judged by volunteer faculty members. Prizes will be awarded to the top speakers in each oral session and the top three presenters in each poster session.

The keynote speaker for the event will be Randal Kaufman, Ph.D., professor of the Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute and director of the institute’s Degenerative Diseases Program. He will present "Is protein misfolding in the endoplasmic reticulum oncogenic?"

Dr. Kaufman’s research focuses on understanding fundamental mechanisms that regulate protein folding and cellular responses to the accumulation of unfolded proteins within the endoplasmic reticulum. In many degenerative diseases, including neurological, metabolic, genetic and inflammatory diseases, it’s thought that the accumulation of misfolded proteins leads to cellular dysfunction and death.

The event, which is open to the public, will take place in the Margherio Family Conference Center and the Scott Hall cafeteria beginning at 8:30 a.m. The day’s lineup will include poster and oral presentations by students, culminating with the keynote address by Dr. Kaufman at 3:45 p.m. in the Margherio Family Conference Center.

To submit an abstract for a poster or oral session go to Abstracts are due by 5 p.m. Sept. 3.

For additional information, email the Graduate Student Research Day Organizing Committee at, or contact committee Chair Andreana Holowatyj directly at

Doctors denounce clinical trials of 'alternative' medicines
In Headlines on August 20, 2014
David Gorski, M.D., Ph.D.

David Gorski, M.D., Ph.D.

Experts writing in the journal Trends in Molecular Medicine’s Aug. 6 edition call for an end to clinical trials of “highly implausible treatments” such as homeopathy and reiki. During the last two decades, such complementary and alternative medicine treatments have been embraced in medical academia despite budget constraints and the fact that they rest on dubious science, they say.

The writers, David Gorski, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.S., associate professor of surgery and Breast Surgery Section chief of the Michael and Marian Ilitch Department of Surgery at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and medical director of the Alexander J. Walt Comprehensive Breast Center at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, and Steven Novella, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at Yale University, argue that, in these cases, the medical establishment is essentially testing whether magic works. Dr. Gorski and Dr. Novella are editors for Science-Based Medicine (, an organization and blog dedicated to exploring the complicated relationship between science and medicine.

“We hope this will be the first of many opportunities to discuss in the peer-reviewed literature the perils and pitfalls of doing clinical trials on treatment modalities that have already been refuted by basic science,” Dr. Gorski said. “The two key examples in the article, homeopathy and reiki, are about as close to impossible from basic science considerations alone as you can imagine. Homeopathy involves diluting substances away to nothing and beyond, while reiki is in essence faith healing that substitutes Eastern mysticism for Christian beliefs, as can be demonstrated by substituting the word ‘god’ for the ‘universal source’ that reiki masters claim to be able to tap into to channel their ‘healing energy’ into patients.”

“Studying highly implausible treatments is a losing proposition,” Dr. Novella added. “Such studies are unlikely to demonstrate benefit, and proponents are unlikely to stop using the treatment when the study is negative. Such research only serves to lend legitimacy to otherwise dubious practices.”

What is needed, the doctors said, is science-based medicine rather than evidence-based medicine. Biologically plausible treatments should advance to randomized clinical trials only when there is sufficient preclinical evidence to justify the effort, time and expense, as well as the use of human subjects.

“Somehow this idea has sprung up that to be a ‘holistic’ doctor you have to embrace pseudoscience like homeopathy, reiki, traditional Chinese medicine and the like, but that’s a false dichotomy,” Dr. Gorski said. “If the medical system is currently too impersonal and patients are rushed through office visits because a doctor has to see more and more patients to cover his salary and expenses, then the answer is to find a way to fix those problems, not to embrace quackery. ‘Integrating’ pseudoscience with science-based medicine isn’t going to make science-based medicine better.  One of our bloggers, Mark Crislip, has a fantastic saying for this: ‘If you mix cow pie with apple pie, it does not make the cow pie taste better; it makes the apple pie worse.’ With CAM or ‘integrative medicine,’ that’s exactly what we’re doing, and these clinical trials of magic are just more examples of it.”

Dr. Gorski and Dr. Novella call on patients to exercise critical thinking skills when evaluating the evidence for or against any kind of treatment. “Critical thinking will help patients learn to recognize when a course of treatment is not supported by data or to tell when a health claim from any practitioner is just too good to be true,” Dr. Gorski said.

Trends in Molecular Medicine is published by Cell Press.
Michigan Academy of Family Physicians elects residency director Pierre Morris, M.D., to leadership role
In Headlines on August 20, 2014
Pierre Morris, M.D.

Pierre Morris, M.D.

Pierre Morris, M.D., was elected to serve a one-year term as vice president of the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians at its annual meeting July 18 in Lansing.

The Novi resident and assistant professor of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences directs the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s family medicine and transitional year residency programs at Crittenton Hospital and Medical Center in Rochester, Mich. He also is chair of residency recruitment for his department, and completed his own family medicine residency with WSU in 2004.

The MAFP is the largest medical specialty organization in the state.

“The MAFP is a very active and multifaceted organization that continues to be highly successful advocating for and guiding the direction of family medicine locally and nationally,” Dr. Morris said. “I am highly honored to be associated with such a distinguished organization, and as vice president I plan to play an active role advancing our issues, assisting in the reduction of health care disparities, and accurately and appropriately defining the specialty of family medicine and our broad scope of clinical practice.”

Dr. Morris came to medicine after 13 years as a 10th and 11th grade biology teacher in Normandy, Mo.

“At 36, I started reassessing my life and thought, ‘where do I go from here, and what is it that my background would allow me to do?’ Medicine became an option,” he said.

He left his teaching job in 1996 and received his medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine in Portsmouth, Dominica, in December 2000. He moved to Michigan soon after and spent one semester teaching biology at Okemos High School to earn money while waiting for his WSU residency to start in July 2001.

As vice president of the MAFP, he will work with its president and board leadership to ensure that all board meetings and official proceedings of the organization are documented. He also will represent the board at functions and events as designated by the president, and will be one of the leading voices representing family physicians in local, state and national issues coverage.

“In Michigan and across the nation the chronic shortage of primary care physicians is evident, now compounded by the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act. As vice president of the MAFP Board of Directors, and in my role as a residency program director, my top goals remain recruiting talented medical school graduates into the specialty of family medicine and addressing the growing demand for quality and comprehensive health care that only family medicine physicians can provide,” he added. “ I will advocate for increased Graduate Medical Education funding on the state and federal level with our Michigan legislators, with an overarching goal of educating physicians who will provide access to care for those most in need.”

Former psychiatry Professor Emanuel Tanay, 86, dies
In Headlines on August 19, 2014
Emanuel Tanay, M.D.

Emanuel Tanay, M.D.

Emanuel Tanay, M.D. who lent his expertise as an expert witness in thousands of court cases, including those of such well-known defendants as Jack Ruby, Theodore Bundy and Sam Sheppard, died in hospice care Aug. 5 of metastatic prostate cancer. He was 86.

A former professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences for the Wayne State University School of Medicine and adjunct associate professor of the WSU Law School, he was a distinguished fellow of the Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Psychiatric Association, and a champion of those suffering from psychic trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.  He was among those who successfully lobbied the American Psychiatric Association to recognize PTSD as a diagnosable and treatable medical condition in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Dr. Tanay’s expertise in the area of psychic trauma was a direct result of his own personal experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder. As a teenage boy during World War II, he survived the Holocaust in Poland and Hungary by hiding from the Nazis and living on false papers to conceal the fact that he was Jewish. With his father confined to and later killed at the Płaszów concentration camp, Dr. Tanay became the leader of his family, saving the lives of his mother, his sister Olenka and his childhood sweetheart. He and his family were liberated in Budapest in 1945.

After the war, Dr. Tanay became a tireless defender for the rights of Holocaust survivors. Although he was a consultant for the German government in its attempts to provide compensation to survivors of the concentration camps, his main interest and concern was in the mental health of survivors. He became a visiting scholar at the Department of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Stockton College in New Jersey. He was featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary, “Courage to Care” and also in the permanent exhibit, “Testimonies” on display at the National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Murder was another subject Dr. Tanay built his reputation upon. The Detroit Free Press once described Emanuel Tanay as “probably the nation’s premier psychiatric theorist on homicide.”

After Jack Ruby’s conviction for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald was overturned, Dr. Tanay was retained as a psychiatric forensic expert by the defense. In preparation for a second trial he conducted extensive interviews with the defendant and his two siblings. His work on Ruby’s behalf was cited several times in the Warren Commission Report on the Assassination of President Kennedy.

In 1989, Dr. Tanay appeared on a panel of the American Association of Psychiatry and the Law to discuss his work as an expert witness in the trial of serial killer Ted Bundy. Dr. Tanay wrote about his work with Bundy, Ruby, accused wife killer Sam Sheppard, and many other clients in his book, “American Legal Injustice: Behind the Scenes with an Expert Witness.”

Survivors include his wife, Sandra; son David; daughters Elaine and Anita; and six grandchildren.

Visitation will take place Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. at the Nie Family Funeral Home Liberty Road Chapel, 3767 W. Liberty Road, in Ann Arbor. A memorial service will follow at noon.

Dr. Walz named director of M.D.-Ph.D. program
In Headlines on August 19, 2014
Dan Walz, Ph.D.

Dan Walz, Ph.D.

Dan Walz, Ph.D., professor of physiology, has been appointed director of the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s M.D.-Ph.D. program.

“Dr. Walz, with his background and lifetime support of medical research, is just the driving force to take us into the next phase of the future of our M.D.-Ph.D. program,” said Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., in announcing the appointment Aug. 18.

He replaces Ambika Mathur, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics, who earlier this year was appointed dean of the Wayne State University Graduate School.

Dr. Walz will retain his role as associate dean of Research and Graduate Programs.

He joined the WSU Department of Physiology in 1973. He served for 10 years as the university’s vice president for Research before his appointment as associate dean of Research for the School of Medicine. He is a former dean of the Graduate School.

“Enhancing the physician-scientist workforce is a major national and institutional goal,” Dr. Walz said, “and I look forward to recruiting the best students to our MD-PhD program from throughout the nation since Wayne State University provides such a unique environment for training in clinical and translational sciences.”

The program director for three National Institutes of Health-supported institutional training grants, Dr. Walz has directed the dissertation work of 10 doctoral students and trained eight post-doctoral fellows. His research interests are in the structure and function of procoagulant plasma proteins as well as proteins secreted by activated platelets.

Dr. Walz received a bachelor of science degree in biology and chemistry from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y. He holds a master’s degree in biochemistry from St. Louis University and received his doctorate degree in physiology from Wayne State University.

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