School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine
Class of 2015ís Buzz it for Boards charity event is April 19
In Headlines on April 10, 2013
In 2012, Lazaros Yiannos, Class of 2014, smiled for cameras as 18 months of hair growth was shaved off within minutes.

In 2012, Lazaros Yiannos, Class of 2014, smiled for cameras as 18 months of hair growth was shaved off within minutes.

The Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Class of 2015 has bravely embraced a hairy year-end tradition established four years ago by the Class of 2011.

Buzz it for Boards, set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 19 in the Scott Hall cafeteria alcove adjacent to room 1358, is an annual charity event organized by second-year medical students. The fifth annual fundraiser allows M2s to let loose, relieve some stress and either buzz, cut and donate, or dye their hair for a good cause before taking the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step I in June. Other class years, faculty and staff are invited to attend and participate as well. Haircutting and head shaving will be performed by professional hair stylists.

“I think we all look forward to the event because it is another way to give back to charity and the community. Sometimes we can get so caught up in studying, classes and exams that we may forget why we are actually doing all of this work. This event is a great reminder of why we are here,” said Matthew Falkiewicz, Class of 2015 Student Senate president. The second-year medical student will be buzzing his already short hair, he said.

“As physicians, we will be dedicating our lives to service and bettering our communities through health awareness and quality care. It is very important to get involved in the community, especially in cities like Detroit,” he added.

The 2013 Buzz it for Boards will benefit Alternatives for Girls, a Detroit-based nonprofit serving homeless and at-risk girls and young women since 1987. Services include shelter, street outreach, educational support, vocational guidance, mentoring, prevention efforts and counseling, all designed to empower young women to make positive choices. The charity was chosen by the Class of 2015, which wanted Buzz it for Boards’ donations to stay in Detroit. For more information, visit

“We really liked their message of prevention, outreach and shelter for a specifically vulnerable population in Detroit,” Falkiewicz said. “They do a number of things for at-risk females in Detroit, including health awareness, shelter, increasing self-esteem, helping with school, safe rides to different areas and more. All of these can be life changing, and will allow these at-risk females to live healthier, safer and more productive lives.”

As a whole, Buzz it for Boards has raised more than $10,000 for charities since 2009, including $6,100 last year. Donations will be accepted at the event. To donate to the cause in advance, visit

The USMLE is a comprehensive national medical exam that tests medical students on everything they’ve learned during years one and two of medical school. Students begin studying for it as early as the fall before, and ramp up studying after completing coursework in May. It’s one of three exams required to become a licensed practicing physician in the U.S. Students must pass it to move on to clinical years three and four of medical school.
Aesculapians invite volunteers to join them for Grand River Creative Corridor cleanup
In Headlines on April 9, 2013
The Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Aesculapians Honor Society will once again team with Motor City Blight Busters for another community cleanup in the Grand River Creative Corridor.

The Aesculapians invite fellow students to join them April 20 for a shift or the whole day.

The non-profit GRCC is an art corridor and neighborhood revitalization project concentrated on Grand River Avenue between Rosa Parks Boulevard and Warren Avenue in Detroit. It features more than 50 murals on 15 buildings, an outdoor art gallery at a bus stop and free-standing art installations. The GRCC project involves more than 45 volunteer artists from Michigan, Ohio, California, Germany, France and New Zealand, and is an ongoing effort to transform Detroit’s Grand River Avenue into a creative hub that will attract tourists, artists, small businesses, entrepreneurs and investors.

Volunteers are needed to help with trash pickup, clearing weeds from sidewalks, lot clearing, tree trimming, sweeping, grass cutting and painting. Work will be done in two shifts, the first from 9 a.m. to noon, and the second from 1 to 4 p.m. A lunch break will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Those interested in volunteering are welcome to come for the entire day or a single shift. Volunteers should bring any equipment they have to help with the cleanup, including work gloves and lawn equipment. Participants should wear closed-toe shoes.

Volunteers will meet at the 4731 Gallery, located at 4731 Grand River Ave.

To sign up for the event, visit

For more information about the event, visit!/events/139730502871644/.

The Aesculapians Honor Society is a School of Medicine student organization devoted to giving back to the City of Detroit through a variety of community programs and activities. Past work includes service projects and fundraising for The Do Foundation, The Greening of Detroit and Gleaners Community Food Bank.
Bio-IT World Conference features WSU School of Medicine, College of Engineering faculty
In Headlines on April 9, 2013
Leonard Lipovich, Ph.D.

Leonard Lipovich, Ph.D.

Xue-wen Chen, Ph.D.

Xue-wen Chen, Ph.D.

The Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics and the WSU College of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science are participating in parallel tracks at the Cambridge Healthtech Institute’s Bio-IT World Conference and Expo 2013, going on today through Thursday at the World Trade Center in Boston.

School of Medicine Assistant Professor of Molecular Medicine and Genetics Leonard Lipovich, Ph.D., will present his lab’s work at this high-profile industry meeting, speaking as part of the conference’s Track Nine, Drug Discovery and Informatics. Xue-wen Chen, Ph.D., department chair and professor of Computer Science, will chair Track 11 of the conference, on Collaborations and Open Access Innovation, Data Sharing.

Dr. Lipovich will present “Beyond ENCODE: Placing Long Non-Coding RNA Genes into Regulatory Networks for Therapeutics” in a 25-minute invited talk Thursday.

In 2012, the ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) Consortium revealed an abundance of long non-coding RNA, or lncRNA, genes in the human genome. Dr. Lipovich, with members of his laboratory, analyzed the transcriptome of three human systems – two cancers (breast cancer and melanoma) and the in-vivo human epileptic brain – and validated lncRNA functions by reverse genetic tools. The results demonstrate that certain primate-specific lncRNAs, antisense to protein-coding genes, directly and specifically regulate those genes.

Dr. Lipovich will present these results and a computational model that places these non-conserved lncRNAs into therapeutically targetable disease networks.

“I am excited about this speaking engagement because Bio-IT World is a major industry forum focusing on the direct potential of bioinformatics and genomics research to impact clinical work and human health. I am delighted to introduce this audience to our computational and wet-lab studies of lncRNA in three diseases,” he said.

The industry event, in its 12th year, is a flagship annual conference organized by the Cambridge Healthtech Institute, a life science network for researchers and business experts from pharmaceutical, biotech and academic organizations.

Dr. Diwadkar receives WSU Career Development Chair Award
In Headlines on April 9, 2013
Vaibhav Diwadkar, Ph.D.

Vaibhav Diwadkar, Ph.D.

Vaibhav Diwadkar, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences for the Wayne State University School of Medicine, has been selected to receive a Wayne State University 2013-2014 Career Development Chair Award.

The president of the university awards no more than seven Career Development Chairs annually, to support outstanding tenured faculty members in the early stages of their careers. Nominees must be faculty members who have earned tenure and been promoted to the rank of associate professor within the last four years.

Award winners receive a $2,500 honorarium, $10,000 in unrestricted research support and $6,500 for use in engaging part-time faculty to cover up to half of the award winner’s normal annual teaching assignment.

The Selection Advisory Committee that forwarded candidates to the provost and president consists of former Career Development Chair Award winners.

“This award is possible because of our collaborative efforts. Though I am the named recipient, it reflects the collective efforts of many of my colleagues, collaborators (in the United States and overseas) and our students,” said Dr. Diwadkar, who also serves as co-director of the Division of Brain Research and Imaging Neuroscience for the School of Medicine. “Therefore, I am very pleased that these efforts have been implicitly acknowledged, and that we can continue to foster them.”

Dr. Diwadkar said the award funding will be applied to his work involving advanced image analyses through functional magnetic resonance imaging to discover brain network function and dysfunction in psychiatric disorders. He plans to use approaches in computational neuroscience and complex systems analyses to understand brain network dysfunction in disorders including schizophrenia, and mood- and emotion-related disorders like borderline personality and bipolar disorder.

The research, he noted, is served by collaborations between the Forschungszentrum Juelich (Germany), the InterUniversity Center of Behavioral Neuroscience (Universities of Verona and Udine, Italy), the University of Pittsburgh, and the Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences at Florida Atlantic University.

“There is tremendous distributed clinical and computational expertise across these sites, providing a strong collaborative element to progress our aims,” he said. “I am excited that we are adopting a framework for fMRI analyses that is highly complex, and may uncover brain mechanisms underlying disorders.  In that sense, we are attempting to advance beyond simply characterizing statistical relationships between fMRI signals.”

Dr. Diwadkar and his fellow award recipients will receive the award during an Academic Recognition Ceremony April 25 at WSU’s McGregor Memorial Conference Center.
Genitourinary team leader contributes to article on prostate cancer in New England Journal of Medicine
In Headlines on April 8, 2013
Ulka Vaishampayan, M.D.

Ulka Vaishampayan, M.D.

Ulka Vaishampayan, M.D., assistant professor of Internal Medicine for the Wayne State University School of Medicine and leader of the Genitourinary Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center, has contributed to an article recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine comparing two different therapeutic methods in the treatment of metastatic, hormone-sensitive prostate cancer that becomes unresponsive to traditional methods of therapy.

The article is titled “Intermittent versus Continuous Androgen Deprivation in Hormone Sensitive Metastatic Prostate Cancer Patients: Results of S9346 (INT-0162) an International Phase III Trial.” Fellow authors come from a number of American and international institutions. The lead author, Maha Hussain, M.D., is from the University of Michigan.

The Phase III trial began in 1995 and was completed in 2008 though patient follow-up has continued since completion. A total of 3,040 patients were accrued for the trial and 1,535 patients were randomized into receiving either complete androgen-deprivation therapy or intermittent androgen-deprivation therapy.

Researches at Karmanos recruited 112 patients into the clinical trial, representing one of the largest single institution accruals, said Dr. Vaishampayan, a member of WSU’s Division of Hematology/Oncology.

The objective of the trial was to determine whether intermittent androgen deprivation would provide better survival rates and quality of life for men compared to continuous androgen deprivation. Prostate cancer is an androgen-dependent disease and continuous androgen deprivation has been the standard therapy for metastatic (cancer that has spread), hormone-sensitive disease. Androgen is a male sex hormone.

Researchers ultimately determined that intermittent androgen deprivation does not achieve comparable survival rates compared to complete androgen deprivation therapy, though it does provide small improvements in quality of life (i.e. emotional well-being and sexual function) for men with prostate cancer, but only in the first three months of receiving the therapy.

Previous studies showed that intermittent androgen deprivation had prolonged the time between disease diagnosis and development of “castrate-resistant” disease. All patients in the trial had a form of prostate cancer referred to as “castrate-resistant,” a stage when traditional testosterone suppression treatment is no longer effective.

Dr. Vaishampayan noted that all men diagnosed with metastatic, hormone-sensitive prostate cancer on androgen deprivation become castrate-resistant within a median of 18 to 24 months after initial diagnosis. The study established parameters for assessing the risk factors of early onset castrate-resistant disease, she said.

“The information that complete androgen deprivation and intermittent androgen deprivation have different survival outcomes should be an important factor during patient and physician discussions and decisions regarding the risks and benefits of androgen-deprivation therapy,” Dr. Vaishampayan said. “This national trial addressed an important question and involved tremendous effort, patience and collaboration.”
Pre-med students launch clean water organization
In Headlines on April 5, 2013
The National Student Water Association includes, in back, from left, Rashid Al-Mehdi, faculty advisor Silas Norman Jr., M.D.; Muhamad Chbib; in front, from left, Ali Abdallah, Abess Makki and Ali Mourad.

The National Student Water Association includes, in back, from left, Rashid Al-Mehdi, faculty advisor Silas Norman Jr., M.D.; Muhamad Chbib; in front, from left, Ali Abdallah, Abess Makki and Ali Mourad.

The National Student Water Associationís five founders traveled to Honduras in March to dig trenches such as this one, creating a clean water source for the village of El Retiro.

The National Student Water Associationís five founders traveled to Honduras in March to dig trenches such as this one, creating a clean water source for the village of El Retiro.

National Student Water Associationís Abess Makki helps build a pipeline for a clean water system in Honduras.

National Student Water Associationís Abess Makki helps build a pipeline for a clean water system in Honduras.

While many college students used last month’s spring break to kick back and party hard, a quintet of Wayne State University undergraduates spent their time off digging trenches in a country where locals collect and use unfiltered water from creeks littered with garbage.

A small Honduran village of 100 now has clean, drinkable water thanks to the five founders of the nonprofit National Student Water Association. The March 7-14 trip was the culmination of a pilot project for the NSWA, created in 2011 by WSU juniors Abess Makki, Rashid Al-Mehdi, Ali Abdallah and Ali Mourad, and senior Muhamad Chbib. The quintet, friends who attended Dearborn’s Fordson High School together, spent the week working with the nonprofit Global Brigades’ Water Brigades division to build a gravity water system that now pipes clean water into the village of El Retiro in north central Honduras. Watch a video of their work here.

The group took the trip to help write a clean water project model WSU students could eventually mimic in countries such as Ghana, Qatar and Sierra Leone.

The student organization is advised by the School of Medicine’s Silas Norman Jr., M.D., associate dean of Admissions, Diversity and Inclusion, whose own involvement in Detroit-based community outreach programs like the Community Health Awareness Group Inc., Detroit Health Care for the Homeless project and Detroit Department of Health & Wellness Promotion inspired him to guide them.

“We pride ourselves on having students who are committed to working for people,” said Dr. Norman, assistant professor of Internal Medicine. “Our students are known for the work they do in the community.”

Back home, they also hope to educate other students about the global water crisis, the founders told Fox 2 News reporter Robin Schwartz, who interviewed them about the project April 4 at the School of Medicine.

“Our final goal is to build on behalf of Wayne State University,” Makki said, NSWA president.

Isolated villages such as El Retiro and others in Honduras do not readily have access to potable water and as a result, attain water only every three days, per Global Brigades.

Future projects would provide disadvantaged communities in developing countries with adequate sanitation supplies and potable water, leading to healthier, fuller and more productive lives.

“This experience was so humbling,” said Abdallah, the group’s communications coordinator. “We have such a comfortable lifestyle that these people don’t have. It’s about us not being aware of what’s out there. One of our goals is to make people aware. We can’t take this for granted, and we have to help others.”

The 20-year-old grew up near Chbib, 22, who joined NSWA after returning from Qatar, where he spent a summer conducting a water quality research project using an Undergraduate Research Grant he received from the Irvin D. Reid Honors College. Chbib, the group's vice president, said NSWA is the first clean water action organization founded at WSU, and was started by Makki after he heard actor Matt Damon talk about the global water crisis in 2010. Makki, who previously took clean tap water for granted, immediately began researching the water conditions in other countries. What he found was staggering, he said. Nearly 1 billion people live without clean drinking water, and dirty water can lead to a variety of life-threatening health issues, such as diarrhea, dehydration and parasites, according to Charity: Water, a New York-based nonprofit.

Al-Mehdi, 21, NSWA’s director of finances and administration, was a student at the University of Michigan when Makki asked him to join as a co-founder. He transferred to WSU the following semester. Mourad, now director of development, joined soon after.

“We’re all people on this planet. We should all have basic things like water and shelter,” Mourad said.

While Dr. Norman works within WSU’s medical school, this is the first undergraduate organization he has advised. He agreed to the assignment because of the group’s level of seriousness and the importance of the project itself. While Abdallah is a biomedical engineering major and Mourad plans to attend Pharmacy school, the rest hope to move on to medical school after earning their undergraduate degrees. Dr. Norman agreed they’re certainly making a case for admission.

“Whenever we can find someone who is committed, it’s a very good thing. We’re proud of them,” he said.

For more information, including how to donate, volunteer or help with future trips, visit or email

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