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Pediatric Practice Provides Roadmap for COVID-19 Vaccination of Patients and Caregivers

Monday, October 18, 2021

Golisano Children’s Hospital (GCH) Pediatric Practice in Rochester, NY demonstrated success in vaccinating eligible patients as well as their caregivers by offering the vaccine to both during pediatric visits and provides a model for addressing vaccine hesitancy and barriers, according to an October 8th article published in JAMA Pediatrics’ Viewpoint.

The article, “COVID-19 Vaccination for Caregivers in the Pediatric Medical Home: A Call to Action to Improve Community Vaccination Rates,” outlines how pediatric practices are well-positioned to improve community vaccination rates by vaccinating caregivers along with their own patients in the pediatric medical home – a convenient place where the input of trusted physicians can help address vaccine hesitancy.

“Pediatricians talk about vaccines with patients and families daily and have substantial experience discussing vaccine hesitancy and concerns. Parents rely on their pediatric clinician for vaccine information most often, and a physician’s recommendation is associated with higher rates of uptake for specific vaccines,” wrote the study’s co-authors, Andrea Milne Wenderlich, M.D., Cynthia Rand, M.D., M.P.H., and Jill Halterman, M.D., M.P.H., GCH faculty who serve in the Division of General Pediatrics and as Pediatricians in the Golisano Children’s Hospital Pediatric Practice.

The Golisano Children’s Hospital Pediatric Practice serves more than 13,000 patients, most of whom are children from minority communities who reside in high poverty areas of Rochester.

The paper outlines several potential barriers to COVID-19 vaccination including:

  • Difficulties with transportation/taking off time from work,
  • Hesitancy related to long-standing mistrust from historically racist medical and research practices,  and
  • Concern about potential vaccine side effects

To address these concerns, the GCH Pediatric Practice secured the resources to vaccinate pediatric patients as well as their caregivers during regular office visits as well as at several after-hours back-to-school clinics in August and September. To implement this plan, the clinic arranged additional staffing with support from Strong Memorial Hospital, secured adequate vaccine supplies, and encouraged all team members who interact with patients and families in the practice (eg, physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, behavioral health specialists) to ask about the COVID-19 vaccine, offer the opportunity for discussion with a clinician, and inform them of the opportunity to receive the vaccine in the office if desired. 

The practice found multiple positive outcomes with this approach, according to the article. Caregivers reported appreciation for the convenience afforded by getting the vaccine while they were already at a visit for their child, and several stated that they felt greater comfort and trust getting the vaccine in the pediatric practice. Many caregivers chose to get the vaccine in solidarity with their child who was also eligible to be vaccinated. Overall, more than 60 caregivers were vaccinated in the first month that the vaccine was offered, with more than 1,400 COVID-19 vaccine doses given to date.

This initiative showed that hesitancy can be addressed by providing a comfortable and accessible setting for caregivers to discuss the vaccine with a trusted provider,” said Halterman, who serves as division director of General Pediatrics.

“Many parents were grateful for the opportunity to be vaccinated with their children, stating how they just felt more comfortable getting the vaccine here because they’ve been coming for years and have a trusting relationship with us.”, said Heather Wensley, NP, nurse manager of the practice and Manager of Advanced Practice Providers for GCH.

The success of this program indicates that pediatricians could effectively address concerns in vaccine-hesitant communities, and it could serve as a model for other pediatric practices throughout the country.

“With the Delta variant of the virus still active in our community, it is critical to get as many eligible children and caregivers vaccinated to limit opportunities for infection spread and further disruption to in-person school,” said Halterman, “pediatric clinics have an important opportunity to contribute to this effort.

The New Issue of Opportunities to Explore is Out Now!

Friday, October 15, 2021

Read the October 18-October 22, 2021 Issue

Ann Falsey, M.D. Recognized for Leadership in RSV Research

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Ann Falsey M.D.

Ann Falsey, M.D., was recognized for her contribution to research on the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) during IDWeek, the largest annual gathering of infectious disease researchers in the U.S.  Falsey delivered the named John F. Ender Lecture and also presented new clinical trial results on an RSV vaccine being developed by Janssen. 

Falsey is a professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases, and co-director of the Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Unit, a National Institute of Allergy Infectious Diseases-supported research center that has played a central role in the scientific response to the COVID pandemic.  Her research focuses on numerous viral respiratory pathogens including RSV, influenza, coronaviruses, parainfluenza viruses, and human metapneumovirus.  She has conducted numerous adult surveillance and vaccine studies in a variety of settings including ambulatory older adult clinics, nursing homes, and senior daycare centers. 

Falsey was selected to deliver with the John F. Enders Distinguished Lecture in Medical Virology.  The lecture, titled “Beyond Bronchiolitis: Respiratory Syncytial Virus in Adults,” was an overview of decades of research and the growing global burden of this disease, particularly in older adults.  RSV is a leading cause of bronchitis and pneumonia and one of the most common infections in the world. The lecture is named in honor of Ender, who received the 1954 Nobel Laureate in Medicine for discoveries that ultimately led to the development of vaccines against polio, measles, rubella, and mumps.

In a separate presentation, Falsey discussed the results of a phase 2 clinical trial in adults 65 and older for an RSV vaccine being developed by Janssen.  Falsey served as principal investigator for the Rochester site of the study. The trial showed that the vaccine generated a robust immune response and was 80% effective in preventing lower respiratory tract infection and 70% effective in preventing all acute respiratory infections. The experimental vaccine was well tolerated by study participants.  Janssen has already started a phase 3 clinical trial of the vaccine.  There is currently no approved vaccine for RSV, however, multiple companies – including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna – have vaccine candidates in various stages of development.

IDWeek is a joint annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the HIV Medicine Association, the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society, and the Society of Infectious Disease Pharmacists. The meeting serves as a forum for peer-reviewed presentations of new research on scientific advances and bench-to-bedside approaches in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and epidemiology of infectious diseases.

Lancet Review: Mental illness and suicide among physicians

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Dr. Ronald Epstein, M.D., professor in the department of Family Medicine, and other researchers highlight the need for individual and organizational interventions to better protect the mental wellbeing of physicians in a new review featured in The Lancet.

Read More: Lancet Review: Mental illness and suicide among physicians

Three PhD Students Honored with SMD Equity and Inclusion Award

Monday, September 27, 2021

URMC Diversity Award winners - 2021

From left to right: Raven Osborn, PhD candidate in Translational Biomedical Sciences, Katherine Andersh, PhD candidate in Neuroscience, and Briaunna Minor, PhD candidate in Microbiology,  received the 2021 Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Equity and Inclusion during SMD Opening Convocation on Sept. 20.

The School of Medicine and Dentistry (SMD) welcomed students, honored excellence, and marked the official start of a new academic year with Opening Convocation held on Sept. 20.

“Convocation is a time when we come together to celebrate the many accomplishments of our School of Medicine and Dentistry faculty and learners,” said Mark Taubman, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of URMC, and Dean of SMD. “The individuals we recognize today are a testament to the superb teaching and mentoring, top-notch research, outstanding academic performances, and excellence in patient care and community service that occurs in our School day in and day out.”

This year’s event marked the first time honoring students with the new Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Equity and Inclusion. Established in 2021, this award recognizes an SMD student or student group for outstanding effort in advancing equity and inclusion. Nominees must demonstrate a sustained passion for and commitment to promoting equity and inclusion through their research, institutional, administrative, and/or other service-related efforts. It is expected that nominees’ efforts show a demonstrated impact upon the communities they serve.

In its inaugural year, this award was given to Raven Osborn, Katherine Andersh, and Briaunna Minor, all PhD students and executive board members of the University’s Alliance for Diversity in Science and Engineering (ADSE).

Over the past year, they have been instrumental in advocating for a more welcoming and inclusive learning environment across the Medical Center and the University by leading the charge with the graduate student addendum to the Actions Speak Louder demands.

“They demonstrate their tremendous courage and commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion with their willingness to publicly challenge the status quo and hold institutional leadership accountable,” says Rick Libby, PhD, senior associate dean for Graduate Education and Post-Doctoral Affairs.

Osborn, president of ADSE and a PhD candidate in Translational Biomedical Sciences, says the public acknowledgment is great, but what’s even better is knowing the lasting effect the program’s work will have on the University.

“Honestly, the programs and the institutional changes that are coming out of the work are really the rewards,” she says. "I care about my community. I care to make sure that people who come in who have a similar background as me, if they are good enough to get into Rochester...they can actually flourish as scientists."​

The mission of the ADSE is to increase the representation and visibility of underrepresented groups in the STEM fields. The goals are to connect scientists across our campus, showcase non-traditional career paths and minority experiences in academia, industry, government, and educate students at all levels about opportunities in STEM. 

On that same evening, the ADSE as a group received the URSMD Trainee Diversity Award, which recognizes the exceptional contributions and accomplishments of URSMD trainees (medical students, graduate students, residents, fellows, postdocs) who foster a diverse and inclusive SMD community.

Congratulations to Raven, Kate, and Briaunna!

A record-breaking start for 155 new SMD graduate students!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Lynne Maquat

Despite being in the midst of a worldwide pandemic during our 2021 graduate school application cycle, the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry received 1,063 applications for Ph.D. programs the highest on record. In addition, there were 346 applications for master’s programs and 44 for advanced certificate programs.

COVID-19 not only forced virtual interviews, but made it nearly impossible for prospective students to set foot on campus before applying. In spite of that, new students like Bachelard Dieujuste, who’s part of the Genetics, Development & Stem Cells Ph.D. program, saw that as an opportunity to expand their options.

“I had an interview almost every week, and I have class at the same time,” he says. “It would have been a nightmare for me to juggle between class and then traveling for interviews.”

Dieujuste, after applying to more than ten schools, ultimately landed on Rochester knowing the institution’s reputation in mRNA research. He felt our program would set him up to be among the best in his field.

“In order for that to happen, I must learn from the best,” he says. “Since faculty members at UofR are specialists that use cutting-edge experiments in their field, I have to learn from them.”

Dieujuste comes to us from CUNY Hunter College, the institution where we attracted the most students this year, apart from UofR undergrad. In addition, our graduate programs welcomed a more diverse class than ever before.

Twenty-seven percent of incoming U.S. students are members of racial or ethnic groups historically excluded from and underrepresented in science. Twenty-five percent are from a disadvantaged background as defined by the National Institutes of Health. Both numbers are the highest on record for SMD.

Women make up 66 percent of this year’s graduate students with 103, while there are 52 men.

U.S. students have come to us from 24 different states, while 72 of our new students are staying in their home state of New York. Twenty-five students are coming to us internationally from:

  • Bangladesh
  • Canada
  • China
  • Egypt
  • Ghana
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • Mexico
  • Myanmar
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sudan
  • Taiwan
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom

That’s a total of 101,113 miles traveled to Rochester.

“We're thrilled to welcome our new class of graduate learners,” says Rick Libby, Ph.D., senior associate dean for Graduate Education and Post-Doctoral Affairs. “The skills and experiences they bring to SMD will undoubtedly help us make key advances in science and medicine.”

We wish our newest SMD graduate students continued success. Welcome!

Grad students are helping make research more accessible

Monday, September 13, 2021

Mark Stoessel and Kathryn-Mary Wakim

Mark Stoessel and Kathryn-Mary Wakim, part of the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Rochester, were bench mentors for two of the eight students in the NEUROCITY program.

Read More: Grad students are helping make research more accessible

Rui Li, PhD candidate in epidemiology, leads study on recovery process from moderate to severe chronic pain later in life.

Friday, July 23, 2021

In a study led by Rui Li, PhD candidate in epidemiology, researchers look at the recovery process from moderate to severe chronic pain later in life, highlighting physical activity and sleep quality as important avenues for recovery.

Read More: Rui Li, PhD candidate in epidemiology, leads study on recovery process from moderate to severe chronic pain later in life.

Clinical Cardiovascular Research Center Awarded $17M in New Grants

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The University of Rochester Clinical Cardiovascular Research Center (CCRC) has received five new grants totaling more than $17 million over five years from both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Abbott. The grants will support research in treatment of atrial fibrillation (AF), device therapy for heart failure, and management of Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) patients.

Read More: Clinical Cardiovascular Research Center Awarded $17M in New Grants

UR Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) 2021 Mentoring-Up Resolution Challenge CONTEST RESULTS

Monday, May 24, 2021

Contest Details:

Full-time UR grad students (gender-inclusive) in biomedical, biological, or chemical sciences took charge of their futures by setting and, through mentoring-up, achieving professional and personal goals for Spring 2021. Participants submitted their goals in a January write-up and progress reports on their professional goals in May. The anonymous faculty evaluation committee selected finalists to present on May 20th. All four presenters were selected to win $1500 ea. in technology-related (hardware, software and/or peripherals) prizes. Of note, submissions for this contest were received from graduate students of 12 different programs!

Congratulations, Mentoring-Up Resolution Challenge Winners:

Taylor Uccello
Immunology, Microbiology & Virology Grad Student

4th year | Gerber Lab

Ashlin Poruthoor
Biophysics, Structural & Computational Biology Grad Student

3rd year | Grossfield Lab

Lily Cisco
Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology Grad Student

3rd year | Lueck Lab

Shraddha Shah
Neuroscience Grad Student

5th year | Briggs Lab

Honorable Mentions:

Medina Afandiyeva, Chemistry Grad Student, 1st year, Kennedy Lab

Sara Ali, BSCB Grad Student, 2nd year, Mathews Lab

Debamitra Chakraborty, Materials Science Grad Student, 3rd year, Sobolewski Lab

Brandon Davis, BMB Grad Student, 4th year, O'Connell Lab

Lananh Ho, Biomedical Engineering Grad Student, 1st year, rotating

Mary Moran, IMV Grad Student, 4th year MBI/1st year MPH, Beck & Gill Labs

Kuan-Lin (Zona) Yeh, Nursing Grad Student, 3rd year, Groth Lab

Frances Tolibzoda Zakusilo, Neuroscience Grad Student, 3rd year, Gorbunova & O'Banion Labs

Sponsored by GWIS, an initiative of the NIH T32 Predoctoral Training Grant in Cellular, Biochemical and Molecular Sciences.

Graduate Women in Science Receives 2021 Best of Rochester Award

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Graduate Women in Science has been selected for the 2021 Best of Rochester Award in the University category by the Rochester Award Program.

Each year, the Rochester Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Rochester area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2021 Rochester Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Rochester Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Rochester Award Program

The Rochester Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Rochester area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The Rochester Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community's contributions to the U.S. economy.

Researchers find breastfeeding linked to higher neurocognitive testing scores

Monday, April 26, 2021

New research finds that children who were breastfed scored higher on neurocognitive tests. Researchers in the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) analyzed thousands of cognitive tests taken by nine and ten-year-olds whose mothers reported they were breastfed, and compared those results to scores of children who were not.

"Our findings suggest that any amount of breastfeeding has a positive cognitive impact, even after just a few months." Daniel Adan Lopez, Ph.D. candidate in the Epidemiology program who is first author on the study recently published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health. "That's what's exciting about these results. Hopefully from a policy standpoint, this can help improve the motivation to breastfeed."

Hayley Martin, Ph.D., a fourth year medical student in the Medical Scientist Training Program and co-author of the study, focuses her research on breastfeeding. "There's already established research showing the numerous benefits breastfeeding has for both mother and child. This study's findings are important for families particularly before and soon after birth when breastfeeding decisions are made. It may encourage breastfeeding goals of one year or more. It also highlights the critical importance of continued work to provide equity focused access to breastfeeding support, prenatal education, and practices to eliminate structural barriers to breastfeeding."

Researchers reviewed the test results of more than 9,000 nine and ten-year-old participants in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. Variations were found in the cumulative cognitive test scores of breastfed and non-breastfed children. There was also evidence that the longer a child was breastfed, the higher they scored.

"The strongest association was in children who were breastfed more than 12 months," said Lopez. "The scores of children breastfed until they were seven to 12 months were slightly less, and then the one to six month-old scores dips a little more. But all scores were higher when compared to children who didn't breastfeed at all." Previous studies found breastfeeding does not impact executive function or memory, findings in this study made similar findings.

"This supports the foundation of work already being done around lactation and breastfeeding and its impact on a child's health," said Ed Freedman, Ph.D., the principal investigator of the ABCD study in Rochester and lead author of the study. "These are findings that would have not been possible without the ABCD Study and the expansive data set it provides."

Read More: Researchers find breastfeeding linked to higher neurocognitive testing scores

Ian Krout wins the People’s Choice award for SOT’s 3 Minute Thesis, 2nd place in the University of Rochester's 3 Minute Thesis Competitions

Thursday, April 15, 2021


Ian Krout

Congratulations to Ian Krout for winning the People's Choice award for SOT's 3 Minute Thesis and 2nd place in the University of Rochester's 3 Minute Thesis Competitions! Krout is a 3rd year Toxicology student, in Matt Rand's Lab, whose interests lie in both methylmercury toxicity as well as the gut microbiomes role in the field of toxicology. His research is focused on elucidating the microbial mechanisms of the gut that give rise to inter-individual differences in methylmercury elimination from person to person. It is focused on investigating the bacterial species at play in the microbiome, the mechanisms used for biotransformation, and what this means for the overall elimination rate and subsequent toxicity of differing mercury compounds.

Congrats Ian!

Wedekind lab research featured on the cover of JBC “The Year in JBC: 2020" issue

Friday, February 12, 2021

Congratulations to Shashank Chavali, Dr. Sachitanand Mali, Dr. Jermaine Jenkins, Dr. Rudi Fasan, and Dr. Joseph Wedekind for being featured on the cover of JBC "The Year in JBC: 2020" issue. Their recent research article, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) December 4, 2020 issue, titled "Co-crystal structures of HIV TAR RNA bound to lab-evolved proteins show key roles for arginine relevant to the design of cyclic peptide TAR inhibitors" has been selected as the representative 'RNA' article for 2020 retrospective collection called "The Year in JBC: 2020."

The cover art below, shows a collage of fluorescence complementation experiments between the [4Fe-4S]-transferring NFU1 and potential partners (performed by Roland et al.), crystal structure overlays of HIV-1 TAR RNA with lab-evolved TAR-binding proteins (reported by Chavali et al.), nonmelanized yeast cells (explored by Chrissian et al.) and a cryo-EM structure of STEAP1, now thought to function as a ferric reductase in heterotrimer form (reported by Oosterheert and Gros). Artwork created by EJ Marklin.

Read More: Wedekind lab research featured on the cover of JBC "The Year in JBC: 2020" issue

Lynne Maquat Awarded 2021 Wolf Prize in Medicine

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Lynne Maquat

Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D., the founding director of the Center for RNA Biology at the University of Rochester, was honored with the 2021 Wolf Prize in Medicine. The acclaimed international award is given to outstanding scientists from around the world for achievements that benefit mankind.

Maquat was selected for "fundamental discoveries in RNA biology that have the potential to better human lives." She has spent her career deciphering the many roles that RNA plays in sickness and in health, and is well known for her discovery of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay or NMD. One of the major surveillance systems in the body, NMD protects against mistakes in gene expression that lead to disease. Maquat's lab also revealed that NMD helps our cells adjust to changes in development and in their environment, and more rapidly respond to certain stimuli.

Maquat shares the award with Joan Steitz, Ph.D., Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale School of Medicine and Adrian Krainer, Ph.D., St. Giles Foundation Professor and Cancer Center Deputy Director of Research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Steitz and Krainer were also honored for discoveries in RNA biology.

The Wolf Foundation, which celebrates exceptional achievements in the sciences and the arts, is based in Israel, where Maquat's quest to unravel the intricacies of NMD began. In 1980 she traveled to Jerusalem to retrieve bone marrow samples from four children suffering from thalassemia major, the most severe form of the inherited blood disorder thalassemia. Maquat wanted to learn why the children's marrow contained no beta-globin protein, which is necessary for the oxygen-carrying function of red blood cells. Her 1981 breakthrough manuscript, "Unstable beta-globin mRNA in mRNA-deficient beta0 thalassemia," published in Cell, was the first to reveal the role of NMD in human cells and how it can lead to disease.

"Lynne's work on nonsense-mediated mRNA decay is the bedrock of an ever-growing body of research on how mRNAs are monitored and regulated," said Mark B. Taubman, M.D., dean of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. "Her dedication to her science and to the field of RNA biology has opened the door to the development of RNA-based therapeutics for a wide range of disorders that you can't reach with conventional drugs. We're thrilled that her contributions are being recognized with this prestigious award."

RNA secured its place in the public eye in 2020 with the development and approval of multiple mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Years of research by Maquat, Steitz and Krainer helped set the stage for the rapid development of these vaccines.

The J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair and Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Maquat is the recipient of several other significant honors, including:

Winners of the Wolf Prize are selected annually by an international jury committee of the Wolf Foundation; prizes are awarded regardless of religion, gender, race, geographical region, or political view. The official announcement of this year's prize by the President of the State of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, was made on February 9, 2021.

Read More: Lynne Maquat Awarded 2021 Wolf Prize in Medicine

Miriam Barnett chosen to be a 2021 ASPET Washington Fellow

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Miriam Barnett

Miriam Barnett, a Pharmacology graduate student in Dr. Jean Bidlack's lab, was chosen to be a 2021 American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) Washington Fellow. The mission of the ASPET Washington Fellows Program is to enable developing and early career scientists interested in science policy to learn about and become more engaged in public policy issues. Miriam's selection was based on her strong interest in science and its intersection with public policy. As an ASPET Washington Fellow, Miriam will meet with congressional representatives and staff to advocate for the importance of biomedical research.