School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine
Wayne State research scholar focuses on how to make patient safety, quality and regulation count
In Headlines on June 27, 2016
Paul Barach, M.D., M.P.H.

Paul Barach, M.D., M.P.H.

One of the 10 most influential scientific articles of 2015 from BioMed Central, a leading scientific publisher, was co-authored by Wayne State University School of Medicine Clinical Professor of Pediatrics Paul Barach, M.D., M.P.H.

Dr. Barach was appointed a pediatric cardiomyopathy research scholar at the school in March 2016 as the 2016-2017 Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation and Kyle John Rymiszewski Foundation Senior Research Scholar in the Department of Pediatrics. Recognizing the need to foster the next generation of researchers in the field, the two foundations jointly established a scholar program at the School of Medicine and in the Children’s Research Center of Michigan at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

Dr. Barach’s article, “A systematic review of hospital accreditation: the challenges of measuring complex intervention effects,” was chosen by BioMed Central as one of the most influential articles of 2015 based on the opinion of other scientists, the rigor of the paper and its potential impact on the field and health policy. The article was published in the journal BMC Health Services Research and is available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26202068.

Increased focus on improving patient outcomes, safety and quality of care has led stakeholders, policy makers and health care provider organizations to adopt standardized processes for evaluating health care organizations. Accreditation and certification are standard approaches to ensuring patient safety and high quality health care delivery. Hospitals are accredited by independent assessment agencies like The Joint Commission, which accredits about 21,000 health care organizations and programs. Dr. Barach’s research found that there is limited data to support that guidelines and regulations disseminated by accreditation agencies like The Joint Commission lead to improved or safer patient outcomes and better financial performance.

“This article speaks to a very relevant topic of governance, oversight and public accountability amid the growing calls and requirements for more regulation,” Dr. Barach said.

He and his research team, after performing an exhaustive literature search and comprehensive meta-analysis, could not find any published data on the meaningful effectiveness of accreditation. “From a fiduciary perspective, is all the money and resources spent on accreditation efforts actually adding value to society or not?” he asked. “How can we envision and deploy a more effective accreditation scheme for U.S. hospitals that protects patients, makes sense to providers and adds value to the community?”

A Harvard-trained cardiac anesthesiologist and intensive care expert with formal training as a health services researcher, Dr. Barach is a leader in the field of quality and safety outcomes, including those for children with heart diseases. This past year Dr. Barach, along with Carman and Ann Adams Department of Pediatrics Professor and Chair Steven Lipshultz, M.D., and others, edited “Pediatric and congenital cardiac care,” a two-volume textbook published by Springer that focused on outcomes analysis, quality improvements and patient safety for pediatric and congenital heart patients. Visit http://www.springer.com/us/book/9781447165866 for more information.

Dr. Lipshultz, also the Schotanus Family Endowed Chair of Pediatrics, the Carman and Ann Adams Endowed Chair in Pediatric Research and principal investigator of the National Institutes of Health-supported North America Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Registry, is pleased to have Dr. Barach on board as the first pediatric cardiomyopathy research scholar at the medical school.

Dr. Barach is working with Dr. Lipshultz and James Wilkinson, M.D., professor of Pediatrics and associate director of the Children’s Research Center of Michigan, and the Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Registry research team to design and conduct research in pediatric safety, quality and reliability, with a special focus on cardiomyopathy. Since becoming a WSU pediatric cardiomyopathy senior scholar, Dr. Barach, along with Dr. Lipshultz, published a critical assessment of a timely topic in patient outcomes research on the benefits and hazards of publicly reporting quality outcomes in the Elsevier journal “Progress in Pediatric Cardiology,” which may be viewed at http://www.ppc-journal.com/article/S1058-9813%2816%2930036-4/abstract.

“Following an international search, Wayne State University School of Medicine was able to bring Dr. Barach here for the next year to help make patient outcomes better around the world,” Dr. Lipshultz said, praising the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation and the Kyle John Rymiszewski Foundation for their support. “We have been able to make this pairing and partnership available to address the needs of affected children and their families, as well as to this field, with the vision and generosity of these two foundations.”

The Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation (CCF) is a national organization focused on funding research and educational initiatives, providing family support and increasing awareness and advocacy for all forms of pediatric cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy is the leading cause of heart transplants and sudden cardiac arrest in children 18 and younger. CCF approached the Michigan-based Kyle John Rymiszewski Foundation to help establish the Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Research Scholar position.

“We remain committed to furthering research on pediatric cardiomyopathy, and this new position will help us to develop new studies that are critical to improving patient outcomes in this field,” said Lisa Yue, CCF’s founding executive director.

The scholarship honors Kyle Rymiszewski a Clinton Township, Mich., teenager diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy who was treated at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. He died in 2009 following a cardiac arrest resulting from his cardiomyopathy. His namesake foundation supports and collaborates with the CCF on research projects and is dedicated to increasing awareness of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in children. The scholarship position is the foundation’s first endeavor to fund research focused on improving outcomes, and is committed to continuing the scholarship in perpetuity.

“We’re excited that Dr. Barach is the first recipient of this scholarship in Kyle’s memory. Dr. Barach will bring a new perspective to the Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Registry research team and can spearhead national qualitative studies on this disease,” said Kyle's mother, Aimée Cowher.

Dr. Kuhn, former provost recognized for work to develop female leadership
In Headlines on June 23, 2016
Gloria Kuhn, D.O., Ph.D.

Gloria Kuhn, D.O., Ph.D.

Margaret Winters

Margaret Winters

The Wayne State University chapter of the Michigan ACE Network and the President's Commission on the Status of Women recently honored two Wayne State University administrators for their long and impressive work to support, promote and develop leadership abilities of their female colleagues.

Gloria Kuhn, D.O., Ph.D., professor of Emergency Medicine for the Wayne State University School of Medicine, was awarded the 2016 MI-ACE Network Women of Distinction Award. She was selected based on her exemplary accomplishments as a physician, educator and researcher, and for her positive impact on women in emergency medicine, particularly junior female faculty.

“I was thrilled to be nominated for this award -- actually winning it was the frosting on my cake,” said Dr. Kuhn, a resident of Farmington Hills and vice chair of Academics in the Department of Emergency Medicine. “It is particularly gratifying to me to support women in medicine and science because they have so much potential and dedication. For a number of reasons, this potential is often not reached, and even when it is, may not be recognized and rewarded. Much has been done to rectify these problems, but more remains.”

The MI-ACE Wayne State chapter Women of Distinction award is awarded annually to a Wayne State employee who has demonstrated a sustained commitment to women and issues of diversity. “Commitment” is defined broadly to encompass all areas of university life and levels of employment, from administrative positions of leadership through service as faculty or staff on campus and in the community.

In nominating Dr. Kuhn, Brian O’Neil, M.D., the Dayanandan Endowed Chair and Edward S. Thomas Endowed Professor of WSU Emergency Medicine, wrote: “She has been a major force for recognition and resolution of the specific challenges women face in emergency medicine and medicine in general. Dr. Kuhn’s philosophy is that for women to make an impact in medicine, it requires them to be intimately involved at all levels — research, leadership and education. She has been a mentor to countless women and has used her large professional network to connect junior faculty to regional and national service."

The organizations presented the first Outstanding Achievement Award to former WSU Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Margaret Winters, in recognition of her support of women in higher education as both a campus leader and mentor during her 14-year career at Wayne State.

“I am honored to receive the COSW/Wayne State ACE chapter Outstanding Achievement Award,” Winters said. “It means a great deal to me, precisely because it was awarded by the great group of women I have been working with during my years at Wayne State. I am grateful to them for it.”

Winters, a Grosse Pointe resident, was nominated by Associate General Counsel Linda Galante. “I have seen her repeatedly promote and demonstrate inclusiveness in all aspects of academia at Wayne State, both with regard to women and minorities,” Galante said. “The fact that Wayne State currently has — under Margaret’s tenure — six highly qualified female academics as deans, three of whom also are minorities, is a true testament to her passion for supporting females and minorities in academia.”

The awards were presented at a June 3 luncheon at the McGregor Memorial Conference Center on Wayne State’s campus. The COSW/MI-ACE Network Outstanding Achievement Award is in its inaugural year, and recognizes a woman who has shown exceptional leadership in regard to women’s issues.

In conjunction with the Office of Women in Higher Education of the American Council on Education, the Michigan ACE Network is committed to identifying, developing the leadership of, advancing and supporting the retention of women in higher education.

The Wayne State University President's Commission on the Status of Women, founded in 1971 by the president of WSU, advises the Office of the President and the larger campus community on issues facing women students, staff, faculty and alumni, including gender equity and equality, social justice and intersectionality. The commission advocates for women through programming, university service, outreach, research and policy recommendations.

Dr. Jai Liem dies at age 70
In Headlines on June 23, 2016
Jai Liem, M.D.

Jai Liem, M.D.

Jai Liem, M.D., clinical professor and voluntary faculty member for the Wayne State University School of Medicine, in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation-Oakwood, died June 19, 2016. He was 70.

Dr. Liem was born April 16, 1946, in Seoul, Korea, and completed pre-medical education at Korea University in 1967. He completed his internship at South Macomb Hospital System in Warren, Mich., in 1977, and his residency at the Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University School of Medicine in 1980. Dr. Liem served as a medical officer in the Korean Army from 1971 to 1974, and was also an emergency room physician and in family practice in Seoul.

From 2009, Dr. Liem held numerous hospital appointments in Oakwood Healthcare Inc. at the Annapolis, Dearborn, Taylor and Southshore hospitals, now known as Beaumont Health. He was a member of the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the Michigan Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the Wayne County Medical Society and the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. Dr. Liem was also a member of the SKYL Physical Medicine Practice.

Dr. Liem was well loved by the residents and medical students he taught. He spent significant time getting to know them as individuals, and took a keen interest in them as students and mentoring them in their careers. He was fond of treating residents to dinners and enjoyed spending time at a restaurant or playing billiards with them after a busy day in the hospital caring for patients. Dr. Liem enjoyed music and the arts and he enjoyed his hobby of dancing with his wife.

Dr. Liem is survived by his wife, Ann, and two children, Karen and Jason.

A funeral service will be held June 23 at 11 a.m. at McCabe Funeral Home, Farmington Hills Chapel, 31950 West 12 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48334. For more information, call 248-553-0120.

Wayne State University startup joins ranks of 50 smartest companies
In Headlines on June 22, 2016
Zhuo-Hua Pan, Ph.D.

Zhuo-Hua Pan, Ph.D.

Wayne State University startup RetroSense Therapeutics LLC has been named one of the 50 Smartest Companies by the MIT Technology Review. The 50 Smartest Companies represent the businesses that are the most ambitious, creative and fixated on bringing radical new technologies to life.

RetroSense joins the ranks of Amazon, Microsoft, Snapchat, Facebook, Tesla Motors and 44 other companies that the review noted as being “smart” in the way they create new opportunities.

The MIT Technology Review noted that Retrosense Therapeutics — headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., — is notable for its use of optogenetics, a technology that uses a combination of gene therapy and light to precisely control nerves. “In its treatment of retinitis pigmentosa, the eye is injected with viruses carrying DNA from light-sensitive algae,” the publication stated. “This is intended to confer light sensitivity on certain nerve cells in the eye.”

RetroSense Therapeutics LLC, a privately held biopharmaceutical company, successfully dosed its first patient in the first clinical trial to evaluate the safety of RST-001 in March. The study, “Phase I/IIa, Open-Label, Dose-Escalation Study of Safety and Tolerability of Uniocular Intravitreal RST-001 in Patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP),” is designed to restore some vision in patients with RP, a genetic condition that leads to the progressive degeneration of rod and cone photoreceptors — light-sensing cells found in the retina — resulting in severe vision loss and blindness.

The technology is a result of several years of research and collaboration with researchers at leading institutions, including Zhuo-Hua Pan, Ph.D., the Edward T. and Ellen K. Dryer Endowed Professor, professor of Ophthalmology and of Anatomy and Cell Biology, and scientific director of the Ligon Research Center of Vision/Kresge Eye Institute at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine; and Richard Masland, Ph.D., at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary,  early pioneers in optogenetics for vision restoration.

“This is exciting recognition for RetroSense and all of its efforts in finding a way to restore sight,” said Joan Dunbar, Ph.D., associate vice president for technology commercialization at Wayne State University. “Without the efforts of Sean Ainsworth, RetroSense’s CEO, the company would not be in patient clinical trial stages. It is Sean’s critical efforts that are bringing Drs. Pan and Masland’s important research to life, and hopefully they will be successfully taking their clinical trials to the bedside in the near future.”

“This is another example of the strong innovation ecosystem here in Detroit and at Wayne State University,” said Stephen Lanier, Ph.D., vice president for Research at Wayne State. “It’s very nice to see RetroSense being recognized for moving this technology forward, which has the potential for broad impact.”

For more information about RetroSense Therapeutics, visit retro-sense.com.

For more information about the MIT Technology Review’s “50 Smartest Companies 2016,” visit technologyreview.com/lists/companies/2016/.

Dr. Drescher awarded grant to study disorders of muscle and inner ear
In Headlines on June 21, 2016
Dennis Drescher, Ph.D.

Dennis Drescher, Ph.D.

Dennis Drescher, Ph.D., professor of Otolaryngology and Biochemistry for the Wayne State University School of Medicine, has been awarded a continuation grant of $110,000 from the Jain Foundation of Seattle, Wash., to study disorders of muscle and the inner ear.

The Jain Foundation is devoted to research on a form of muscular dystrophy identified as LGMD2B/Miyoshi, which is caused by a defect in the dysferlin protein. Dr. Drescher is studying how the origins of muscular dystrophy may be related to genetic deafness through specialized proteins called ferlins, known to repair cell membranes.

Both skeletal muscle and the inner ear contain ferlins, which are involved in membrane fusion and repair processes. In muscle, dysferlin repairs tears in the muscle membrane, whereas in the inner ear, otoferlin acts by fusing sensory cell membranes allowing auditory signal transmission. Genetic abnormalities in these proteins cause muscle wasting and deafness, respectively. This continuation grant will explore new findings in muscle-associated dysferlin in the inner ear and how this protein might be involved in recovery from temporary deafness.

Dysferlinopathy is an autosomal recessive neuromuscular disorder caused by a deficiency of the functional dysferlin protein. The symptoms of dysferlinopathy usually manifest between the ages of 16 and 25 and primarily affect the skeletal muscle of the limbs, hips and shoulders. Dysferlinopathy is characterized by progressive muscle wasting and is clinically diagnosed as limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2B (LGMD2B) or Miyoshi muscular dystrophy, depending on whether the thighs and upper arms or calves and lower arms are affected.

Inner ear sensory cells are vulnerable to injury by sound, and their membranes become porous after noise exposure that causes auditory threshold shifts. Normally, the membranes reseal during the recovery process, and hearing returns. Dr. Drescher and his group have recently detected dysferlin in the cochlea, a finding that may provide a molecular correlate for recovery from noise-induced auditory threshold shifts and provide a missing link for understanding and ameliorating some forms of deafness. Dr. Drescher’s research depends upon using a dysferlin-specific antibody, mass spectroscopy and an optical technique (surface plasmon resonance) for detecting interactions of dysferlin with other proteins that patch cell membranes. Further clues are obtained from studying the effect of calcium, which rushes in through the injured regions and directs the manner in which the repair proteins work together.

Dr. Drescher’s research offers the potential of better diagnoses of ferlin-based disorders as well as providing a deeper understanding of underlying mechanisms. “Our hope is eventually to construct cell-penetrating proteins that can replace genetically-dysfunctional ferlins,” he said. “We are very grateful to the Jain Foundation for providing the necessary funding to explore how nature uses related proteins to accomplish similar purposes across different organs of the body.”

The title of Dr. Drescher’s grant is “Molecular-Functional Comparisons of the Dysferlin Membrane Repair Complex with the Otoferlin Synaptic Complex.” He serves as the principal investigator and Marian Drescher, Ph.D., associate professor of Otolaryngology is co-principal investigator. Selvakumar Dakshnamurthy, Ph.D., research associate, will aid in the experimental investigations.

Summer research program to host six high school science students
In Headlines on June 17, 2016
Postdoctoral fellow Jennell White, Ph.D., founded the Biomedical Career Advancement Program.

Postdoctoral fellow Jennell White, Ph.D., founded the Biomedical Career Advancement Program.

High school students have interned in School of Medicine labs as part of the program since 2014.

High school students have interned in School of Medicine labs as part of the program since 2014.

Six high school students from the metropolitan Detroit area will spend their summer working in the laboratories of three Wayne State University School of Medicine researchers as part of the Biomedical Career Advancement Program, a six-week internship founded in 2014 by Department of Pediatrics’ Postdoctoral Fellow Jennell White, Ph.D.

The program, conducted June 20-July 29, offers high school students exposure to state-of-the-art techniques, work experience, mentorship and networking. The students will enter their senior year in the fall.

Dr. White participated in a similar program in high school that solidified her interest in the biomedical field and ignited her passion for research. She wanted to offer young aspiring scientists a similar experience.

“For high school students these experiences are needed now more than ever because the workforce is becoming more and more competitive. Career development activities, such as internships, provide students opportunities to compete in the college admissions process, for college internships, and eventually, full-time jobs,” she said.

Several School of Medicine faculty have participated as program mentors, including this year’s mentors, Professor of Pharmacology Douglas Ruden, Ph.D.; Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences Vaibhav Diwadkar, Ph.D.; and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Robert Akins, Ph.D.

Research interns commit to 40 hours a week to collect data for independent research projects chosen by and under the guidance of their faculty mentors. Projects are within the scope of the mentors’ laboratory research focus.

Interns begin the program with laboratory safety and campus safety training hosted by WSU’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety. The first week includes lectures and discussions about the central research focus of the faculty mentor’s lab. “The remaining weeks students delve into their projects. The daily routine of interns varies greatly and is based on the ongoing work in the host lab,” Dr. White said.

The internship concludes with oral presentations summarizing individual projects at the Office of the Vice President for Research and School of Medicine Department of Physiology’s annual research symposium in August. The symposium showcases work from other high school, undergraduate and graduate students in similar programs, and is open to the WSU community, teachers and interns' families.

Project topics in previous years have been related to diabetes-induced cardiac damage, notch signaling and breast carcinogenesis, bacterial vaginosis, stem cell biology and embryology, and interhemispheric transfer in first-episode psychosis.

Since 2015, the program has also offered professional development workshops in the fall and spring to Detroit Public Schools’ high school science teachers who want to learn state-of-the-art lab techniques. Equipment typically out of budget for Detroit Public Schools may be loaned to teachers to perform experiments in their classrooms, Dr. White said.

“Workshops are structured in a way so teachers can easily implement these lessons in their classrooms,” she added.

Dr. White received her doctorate in Physiology from the School of Medicine in 2011 and is now a hematology/oncology postdoctoral research fellow in the lab of Associate Professor of Physiology and Assistant Professor of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine Patrick Hines, M.D., Ph.D. She also is senior scientist for Functional Fluidics LLC, a flow-based blood diagnostics start-up founded in 2013 by Dr. Hines and based at WSU’s TechTown Detroit.

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