Physical Therapy Professor’s Research Leads to New Treatment of Deadly Lung Disease

jim mansoorIn 1997, Dr. Jim Mansoor, Professor – Department of Physical Therapy, and his colleagues from UC Davis launched a research project to study the effects of pirfenidone on a deadly lung disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), in animal models. The research was funded by Marnac, Inc., which has since sold the rights to sell pirfenidone to InterMune. Today his preliminary work has contributed to a new treatment for patients who suffer from the disease.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis occurs when lung tissues thicken and stiffen, causing difficulty in breathing and restricting oxygen intake. Dr. Mansoor and his team researched the drug’s effects by studying the forced vital capacity, the amount of air that is forcibly exhaled from the lungs. Dr. Mansoor’s research found that animals with induced IPF that had been treated with pirfenidone showed significant improvement in forced vital capacity over animals that were not treated with pirfenidone. Pirfenidone helped reduce thickening of the tissues, commonly known as scarring in the lungs, and improved pulmonary function in animals. The cause of IPF is often unknown and early screenings are not available. Currently, there are no successful treatments for the disease and the only other option is a lung transplant.

“When I was doing this research, I would receive emails from patients saying they’ve learned that there are no treatments for IPF but saw my research online and asked if I would recommend the drug. I would respond and apologize that I was not a medical doctor and that I could only say that the drug improved pulmonary function in animal models,” commented Dr. Mansoor.

Patients who are diagnosed with the disorder are usually middle-aged to older adults who have shown symptoms for some time, and many die three to six years after diagnosis because of respiratory failure. Pirfenidone offers hope for patients by slowing down the deterioration of lung functions in recent human clinical trials, potentially increasing life expectancy. Similar to Dr. Mansoor’s animal model, the human clinical trials also showed a reduction in the deterioration in forced vital capacity.

“Many researchers do a lot of work not knowing if it will go anywhere. Learning that my work is going to have a direct impact on patients is rewarding,” said Dr. Mansoor.

Current studies have found pirfenidone to be relatively safe, with no cardiovascular side effects but with the possibility of nausea and gastrointestinal (GI) distress. Although the effect of pirfenidone on IPF is a relatively new discovery, the drug itself has been around since the 1960s.

Pirfenidone is marketed in the United States under the name Esbriet® which was developed by InterMune. InterMune licensed certain rights to pirfenidone from Marnac, Inc. and its co-licensor, KDL GmbH, in 2002. In 2007 the rights to sell the compound under the patents in the US and several other countries were purchased from Marnac and KDL.

Read more about Dr. Mansoor’s study in a paper titled “Pirfenidone attenuates bleomycin-induced changes in pulmonary mechanics in hamsters,” which was published in the Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine journal in 1997.

 

 

Dr. William Chan Receives NIH Grant

william chanDr. William Chan, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmaceutics and Medicinal Chemistry, has received a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for his research titled “Investigating the molecular mechanisms in controlling the aryl hydrocarbon receptor protein levels.” This $367,000 grant is funded over three years.

The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is an important signaling molecule that responds to human exposure to numerous environmental contaminants that are unavoidable in our daily diet and living. Understanding how our body controls the AhR cellular levels and how it affects our bodily response to toxins in the environment is a fundamental part of the research. Dr. Chan has discovered that a protein known as p23 has the ability to decrease the amount of the receptor in the absence of ligand, a molecule that binds to another. This grant will address mechanisms that control the AhR protein levels in human cells.

If successful, researchers will gain a better understanding of how the AhR protein levels are maintained and regulated, which will uncover mechanisms to modulate its functions for better drug design to address complications in cancer, aberrant immune response, stem cell development and more.

Dr. Chan will be working closely with graduate students, doctor of pharmacy students, and possibly pre-pharmacy students to conduct the research. “I am excited about this research but what is undeniably important is that I have the opportunity to expose students to research and get them excited about this field and hope that it will play a role in their career choice,” said Dr. Chan.

Dr. Chan was recently named department chair, effective July 1. He says he looks forward to “creating an environment for faculty to excel in teaching and scholarly activities.”

Dr. Chan has been studying the AhR since 1993 and has received a total of four grants from the institute since 1999.

 

 

SLP Hosts Annual Graduate Research Presentation

Dr. Jeannene Ward-Lonergan hosted the annual Speech-Language Pathology Graduate Research Presentation on May 7, 2014 to showcase research studies conducted by students in the Master’s of Speech-Language Pathology Program. Students are enrolled in the Research Methods course taught by Dr. Ward-Lonergan and are responsible for conducting a literature review and designing a research study of their choice. At the end of the course the students have the option to carry out the study or take an exam to meet the requirements. This year there were 10 research studies.

slp research 1 resizedAlyssa Novales ’15 and Vanessa Wildie ’15 presented their research study on the “Sentence Structure and Speech Sound Considerations for School-Age Filipino-American Children.” Their pilot study will look at children five to seven years old and evaluate the speech differences between students who are exposed to the Tagalog language at home and those who only speak English. “Documenting speech and language differences will help educate administrators such as teachers and clinicians to make informed decisions when making referrals or diagnosing disorders,” said Wildie. “Since some speech and language differences may be attributed to diverse cultural linguistic backgrounds, children may be misidentified as having a disorder,” added Novales. Both Novales and Wildie were not raised bilingual but picked up some accents from their parents and relatives who primarily spoke their native language during family gatherings. However, the exposure did not affect their speech in school or as adults.

Another important study is the “Effects of cochlear implants on reading levels” presented by Amanda Lines ’15 and Kayla Villalpando ’15. Their study will compare reading levels of children with cochlear implants to children who do not have a hearing impairment. “Many deaf children have a fourth grade reading level. If we can show that cochlear implants can help children excel, it can really impact their education,” said Villalpano. There are strict criteria for the surgery and it can be expensive, especially for families without health insurance. “Cochlear implants can benefit deaf or hard of hearing children but are more appropriate for children who suffer from sensory neurological damage,” said Lines.slp research 2 resized

When asked what Dr. Ward-Lonergan hopes students take away from her course she said, “I hope they gain a greater understanding of the importance of research, more knowledge about the research process and evidence-based practice, and a sense of excitement about conducting research! There are numerous important questions that need to be addressed in our field of study, and I am very proud that so many of the students are already becoming active research contributors.”

Dr. Ward-Lonergan continues to see an increase in the number of students who have opted to conduct their research studies. Many of the studies are submitted for presentation at the California Speech-Language-Hearing Association (CSHA) and/or the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) professional meetings. This year all 10 research studies have been submitted for the 2015 CSHA Convention in Long Beach.

 

 

Grant Builds Bridge Between Physical Therapists at Pacific and in Malawi

malawi with kids resized
Elisa Carey ‘14, and Kristen Damazio ‘14 with Malawian children

A unique aspect about programs at Pacific, specifically the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, is that students have access to experiential learning opportunities that help shape practice-ready professionals. Student physical therapists are building their skills by applying them in international settings, providing physical therapy to patients and assisting in training Malawi community volunteers in providing proper care.

In December, Dr. Casey Nesbit, Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Education, along with Carolyn Coghlan ‘14Elisa Carey ‘14, and Kristen Damazio ‘14 traveled to Malawi where they were able to participate in service learning, teaching and research. The trip was partially supported by the Rupley-Church for International Relations Grant.

As part of the service learning component, the students participated in an elective course taught by Dr. Nesbit which helped them plan and prepare for the trip. In Malawi, the students spent the majority of their time at St. Gabriel’s Hospital in a palliative care ward caring for patients who suffered from a physical disability.

“I’m so thankful to Dr. Nesbit for welcoming us into her Malawi family, for her commitment to St. Gabriel’s and her efforts to improving the quality of care in Malawi. When I reflect on my Pacific experience, I know that I made the right choice. I love that Pacific values international and local relationships and partnerships, and I love that they are hiring professors, like Dr. Nesbit, who can tangibly bring that mission statement to life,” said Coghlan.

Carolyn Coghlan ‘14, Elisa Carey ‘14, Kristen Damazio ‘14, and Dr. Casey Nesbit with Malawi community workers

St. Gabriel’s is home to 300 community health workers who dedicate their spare time to the community assisting patients who need additional care at home or those who live in rural areas. Due to the lack of physical therapists and home care resources in Malawi the workers are the only resource for these patients. As part of a new program, Dr. Nesbit and the students coordinated a three day training session for 20 community health workers. The training consisted of lectures, practical teaching and application during a home visit. Participants were provided with a manual of 22 newly learned skills such as range of motion, how to properly roll someone in bed and how to use a cane. Once the skills were taught, the workers were tested on how well they learned each skill. Dr. Nesbit and the students also shadowed the volunteers on home visits to see how well each skill was applied in a real life setting.

“Our hope was to teach skills that were devised for carryover. I saw the effectiveness of our service through the knowledge assessment, the skills competencies and the observation,” said Dr. Nesbit. “I believe our students made a big impact in that they created a huge bridge between Pacific and Malawi. Hospital staff and patients were impressed because once the students returned home they kept asking where the students went,” she added.

The manual that was distributed during the training received high praise from the director of the National Palliative Care Association of Malawi and, as a result, will be be distributed as part of the national guideline for their respective training. Dr. Nesbit will be continuing this collaboration with St. Gabriel’s to graduate 20 individuals from her training each year.The students were also grateful for this unique opportunity. Coghlan explains “When I witnessed the enthusiasm that the community health workers had in learning basic physical therapy techniques and the excitement they had while applying this new knowledge in their community, I realized it’s these moments that make me proud to be a physical therapist and honored to share my knowledge.”

In addition to the training, Dr. Nesbit taught two courses to two classes at the University of Malawi in the School of Physiology. Each class was made up of 40 students and these students represented the first ever student physical therapists in Malawi. She also conducted research focused on physical therapy ethics in a global context.

When asked about the personal impact of this trip Carey replied “The biggest personal impact was working with a people that experienced so many daily hardships yet exuded joy like no one I have ever met. They were an amazingly welcoming community, always excited to share their culture, all the while eager to learn from us too.”

Dr. Nesbit has a long standing relationship with St. Gabriel’s Hospital in Malawi which allowed for a smooth transition. For the past eight years she has been spending two months out of the year practicing physical therapy there.

Derek Isetti ’08 Receives A $10,000 Scholarship at National Meeting of Communication Professionals

Derek Isetti ‘08 received a $10,000 American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation New Century Scholars Doctoral Scholarship during the recent 2013 Convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), held November 14-16 in Chicago, Illinois.

The New Century Scholars Research Doctoral Scholarship supports doctoral students committed to working in a higher education academic community in the field of communication sciences and disorders in the United States. This program is made possible through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation’s (ASHFoundation) Dreams and Possibilities Campaign.

Isetti is currently a doctoral student studying speech and hearing science at University of Washington in Seattle. He received his master of science in speech-language pathology from Pacific in 2008 and his bachelor of arts in drama from University of California, Irvine. After receiving his bacherlor’s Isetti worked as a Broadway performer for 10 years. “There is currently a television show on NBC entitled “Smash” which chronicles the making of a new Broadway musical. I mention this because for most of my life, this was no television drama; this was my world.”

On Broadway, Isetti was an understudy for John Stamos in the musical “Cabaret”. He was fortunate to be able to perform the leading role of the Emcee over a series of performances. During this period in his career, Isetti knew very little about the field of speech language pathology

When Isetti decided to pursue his education in speech pathology, his initial goal was to work with the performing community and other professional voice users. During his time at Pacific Isetti realized that “great professors are often performers in their own right” which motivated him to pursue the doctor of philosophy with the potential to make a huge impact on the community and profession.

Isetti is passionate about working with patients who suffer from spasmodic dysphonia (SD). “I am especially interested in how the knowledge of diagnosis and information about a disease might alter these listener impressions to facilitate smoother interactions with communication partners.” The scholarship will help further his research on SD and support his dissertation research on workplace barriers faced by individuals with voice disorders, and how severity of symptoms may differently affect hiring outcomes.

“Thank you so much. I am grateful, but just as important, I am proud to represent an organization whose mission has always been to serve others,” said Isetti.

The ASHFoundation is a charitable organization that promotes a better quality of life for children and adults with communication disorders. The ASHFoundation is affiliated with ASHA and is part of the Association’s annual convention?the most comprehensive development conference for speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and speech, language and hearing scientists.

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation
ASHFoundation’s mission is to advance knowledge about the causes and treatment of hearing, speech, and language problems. The ASHFoundation raises funds from individuals, corporations, and organizations to support research, graduate education, and special projects that foster discovery and innovation in the field of communication sciences.

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
The national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 166,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders.

Pacific Researchers Discover Potential Drug Treatment for Heart Failure

A team of researchers at the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has discovered a potential drug to prevent an inherited rare form of heart failure which affects nearly 4% of African Americans. This therapy could provide first potential drug therapy for Familial amyloid cardiomyopathy (FAC), for which the only currently available cure is a combination of heart and liver transplant.

Transthyretin (TTR) is a protein that is synthesized by the liver and secreted into the blood, where it acts as the primary carrier of vitamin A. A number of genetic mutations decrease the stability TTR causing (FAC), the abnormal deposition of insoluble proteins called amyloid in the heart tissue. The TTR mutations causing (FAC) occur when the protein mutation causes the protein to unravel, as a result allowing the protein to aggregate. The aggregation of the proteins attacks the normal tissues of the heart thus causing heart failure.

RS37226_Mamoun Lab7AG10, is a small molecule drug that effectively stabilized mutant TTR when tested in serum samples obtained from patients with FAC. Discovered by Mamoun M. Alhamadsheh, B.Pharm., Ph.D. and his team, which included University of the Pacific graduate students Sravan C. Penchala ’15, Yu Wang ’13 and faculty Dr. Miki S. Park and Dr. William K. Chan, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute and Dr. Isabella Graef at Stanford School of Medicine, they also found AG10 to be orally available and nontoxic in animals, making it attractive for pre-clinical evaluation.

Currently, there are no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs available for treatment of these diseases. Tafamidis, which was rejected by the FDA due to the lack of efficacy, is the only drug in clinical trials for a similar disease called familial amyloid polyneuropathy.

“This discovery will be critical in furthering the potential for better treatment of cardiac patients. Cardiac health conditions are one of the leading causes of death in adults in the U.S. I’m hopeful that Dr. Alhamadsheh and his team’s research efforts will result in improved patient outcomes,” said Dean Phillip Oppenheimer.

To learn more about Dr. Alhamadsheh, visit his faculty profile.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America in June.

William Cao ’14: Mind, Body, and Research

William Cao_resizedAs you wander the halls of the Edward and Alice Long Memorial Hall at the School, you will notice some posters with detailed graphics of stem cells and research data that are drawn to perfection. These posters are the work of William Cao ‘14.

Cao attended University of California, Santa Barbara where he earned his bachelor of science in pharmacology. He is currently in his fourth year in the Pharmaceutical and Chemical Sciences Graduate Program with an emphasis in Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology and Toxicology.

“I was inspired to study pharmacology in high school after I read about how a drug worked. It changed the way I thought about my mind and body. Learning about a mechanism or signaling pathway is really satisfying for me,” said Cao.

His research interest in stem cells was the deciding factor for coming to Pacific. After meeting Dr. Robert Halliwell, Professor Pharmacology and Physiology, and learning about the opportunity to work with stem cells and study the electrical properties of cells and tissues, he knew he had to come here. Dr. Halliwell is also Cao’s faculty advisor. Cao considers Dr. Halliwell as a mentor saying “he is very important in guiding and supporting me.”

In July 2012, Cao received the Pacific Pharmacy Alumni Association Travel Award which funded his trip to London where he attended the British Neuroscience Association 2013 Festival of Neuroscience in April. At the meeting he presented his poster titled “Predictive value of human stem cells for developmental neurotoxicity studies.” “Not only was I allowed to present my work there, it contributed to an invaluable educational experience. Additionally, I was able to meet with other researchers who helped me to design the experiments that I am currently conducting,” said Cao.

“This type of support from the program is critical to the academic success of all graduate students,” he added.

Interestingly, for Cao, cell culture is his morning meditation, he sees neurite outgrowths when he looks at deciduous trees in the winter, and finds the autoclave (an incinerator that is used to dispose of bio hazardous paraphernalia) smell oddly comforting. After completing the program, Cao hopes to obtain a post-doctoral position to gain more experience and work on publishing more of his research.

 

The Northern California College of Clinical Pharmacy Committee’s Second Annual PharmD Research Symposium

On Wednesday June 26th, the Northern California College of Clinical Pharmacy (NCCCP) Committee held their Second Annual PharmD Research Symposium. This symposium is intended to showcase the diverse research accomplished at Pacific, to demonstrate the dynamic capabilities that Pacific students have to offer, and to increase student interest and awareness of opportunities in research on the Health Sciences campus.

The response from students was overwhelmingly positive. “Even though I was nervous and anxious, to be able to present the research we have worked on these past few months, to share it was an honor. Everyone was so supportive and it was definitely an experience I won’t forget,” said Zohal Fazel Ali ’14.

A total of 20 posters were presented by students from various areas of research, including drug discovery, pharmacy practice and curriculum outcomes research. The symposium gave students a chance to practice presenting their methods, results and findings to an audience of peers and professors before presenting at national conferences. Dr. John Livesey, Associate Professor and Chair of Physiology and Pharmacology and faculty judge explains, “I was impressed with the overall effort and results and the high degree of professionalism exhibited here. It’s good to see these efforts and I’m honored to assist in supporting and recognizing the achievements of the students. Every one of these abstracts is work of which the authors can be proud.” Through this symposium, the committee hopes to showcase the diverse responsibilities, clinical expertise, and leadership that pharmacists can contribute in a multitude of settings.

Recipients of the Research Excellence Award
Recipients of the Research Excellence Award

At the end of the symposium, three awards were granted: Research Excellence, Best Poster Presentation, and Audience Favorite Awards. Renae Minnema ’14 and Radha Changela ’14 received the award for Outstanding Poster Presentation. Aaron Tran ’14, Lana Nguyen ’14, Susan Deng ’14, Kelly Chen ’14, and Jodi Ott ’13 received the Research Excellence Award. Lastly, Lauren Epperson ’14, Janine Lastimosa ’14, Tien Tran ’14, Vittoria Ledesma ’14, Jerline Hsin ’12 received the Audience Favorite Award.

The NCCCP Committee hopes to continue to host the PharmD Research Symposium annually and broaden the event to include physical therapy, speech-language pathology and dentistry student research.

The event wouldn’t have been a success without the support and guidance of NCCCP’s advisor, Dr. William Kehoe ’95, and Dr. Rajul Patel ’01, ’06, whose Medicare Part D student researchers composed a large part of the presenters. Both of these faculty members have demonstrated throughout their involvement that leadership is not simply a title, but is shown through example and going above and beyond what is expected. Furthermore, the event wouldn’t have been possible without the help and unwavering support of our judges, research faculty, and University staff.

 

Student Physical Therapists Honor Donors with Memorial Service

Physical Therapy (PT) students Edward Gutierrez ’14, Elisa Carey ‘14, Catherine Vo ‘13, and Jacob Stroman ‘13 joined Dr. Jim Mansoor, Anatomy Professor, the UC Davis Body Donation Memorial Service on September 22, 2012.  The UC Davis School of Medicine students organized a special ceremony to recognize the individuals who donated their bodies to support medical research and education.  Pacific’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program uses six of these donated bodies each year for Dr. Mansoor’s Anatomy class.  Vo, a second year PT student, was a featured and favorite speaker at the memorial.  Vo eloquently spoke about her appreciation for the donated cadaver,

 “When we removed the coverings on the bodies, I didn’t feel any intense emotions like I had thought I would. I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t nervous, and I didn’t feel uncomfortable. We behaved respectfully, felt grateful for our cadavers each day, and worked very hard; that was the extent of how we felt.  But their faces and hands were covered with cloth.  The parts of my group’s body donor that made her most human were concealed. Honestly, we were afraid to see what was underneath. We kept them covered throughout the semester until it was time in our curriculum to look at them.

 When we uncovered her hands, it was the first time I learned something about her that had nothing to do with muscles, arteries, or nerves. I learned that she liked a certain color of nail polish. Or I learned that she liked to have pretty hands. Maybe I learned that she had a dear friend or family member come visit her in the hospital and painting her nails was the way they spent time together.  I’m not sure exactly what I learned when I saw the bright nail polish, but I do know this: I learned to see her differently.  I saw her not just as a human body, but as a human being.

This changed my experience for the rest of the semester. I was more careful with her. I grew to like her. Sometimes I was proud of her – for having ligaments that were easy to identify or for having the most beautifully functional lungs I’d ever seen in my life.

Later we finally uncovered her face. She had these beautiful, colorful eyes. Then I remembered that one of the first things a professor told us in school was that when we meet a patient for the first time and shake hands, we look hard enough to know the eye color.  That was when it hit me. She was more than a body donor for our anatomy lab; she was our first patient upon entering physical therapy school.

It was our responsibility to use the tools and resources we had and explore the structures we had to learn.  It was our responsibility to take care of her and keep her clean. It was our privilege to have her with us for the past year.

I can hardly express just how valuable my class’ anatomy and kinesiology experiences were in that lab. This was nothing like studying books or pictures – we were learning about people from people.

I can say with great confidence that because of the people we are honoring today, an innumerable amount of students are going to demonstrate the kind of knowledge and reasoning that will make them exceptional clinicians.”

After the beautiful memorial service, Vo and her classmates visited the Freeborn Hall foyer where they visited tables with memorial displays for the departed loved ones.  They saw framed photos, and collage photo posters.   One framed picture of a young woman had her elementary school teacher’s badge draped around the frame.

Pacific PT students perform full cadaver dissection throughout the Gross Anatomy course.  All students use the cadavers as part of their presentations in other courses (Kinesiology I and II, Pathophysiology).  Research projects are also conducted by students (under faculty guidance) using the cadavers, generating two or three poster presentations at state or national PT conferences.

Pacific PT alumni Rich Rose ’09 stated, “Every student in our program would tell you that at no other time, and no other place, could we have received the completeness of learning the human body in the way that our anatomy dissection coursework has allowed us.  Having anatomy dissection in our curriculum not only makes us realize the unique privilege we have had, but also prepares us to treat our future patients.”

Pharmacy Student Spotlight: Xiaoyuan Han ’14

Earlier this year, Pacific hosted its 14th Annual Pacific Research Day where Xiaoyuan Han ’14 received the Excellence Award for the Stockton Campus Student Presentations for her presentation titled “Gender difference in aortic endothelial function of streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats: possible involvement of protein kinase C beta and nitric oxide production”.

Han earned her bachelor of science degree in pharmacy and her master of science in pharmacology from China Pharmaceutical University. She is currently a third-year student in the pharmaceutical and chemical sciences program.

“Since I was very young I have been interested in life sciences which inspired me to major in pharmacy,” said Han.

Her research interests include diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, endocrine, and immunology. Han hopes to become a scientist and work in a research institution or research and development department at a pharmaceutical company after graduation. Her dream is to become a successful scientist where she can “contribute to the discovery of effective therapeutic medicine”.

When Han is not spending time in the classrooms or research lab, she enjoys watching “The Big Bang Theory” and discussing natural phenomena with her friends, especially during long trips. She is also known as the “BBQ president” because of her love for barbeque events during her time as president of Pacific‘s American Association of Pharmaceutical Science chapter. Han is also a musician; she started playing the accordion when she was eight years old.

 

Drs. John Livesey and Robert Halliwell Receive SEED Grant

Dr. John Livesey and Dr. Robert Halliwell, Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, together with Dr. Miroslav Tolar and Dr. Benjamin Zeitlin, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, were awarded a SEED grant of $6,000 from the Office of Sponsored Programs, University of the Pacific to begin a pilot study addressing the question of whether human dental stem cells can make real functional neurons. The pilot work will be conducted in labs in both the school of pharmacy in Stockton and the dental school, in San Francisco.

Dr. Cathy Peterson Awarded Fulbright Grant

This year University of the Pacific set a new record for receiving prestigious scholarships with four members of the University – two faculty members and two students – receiving Fulbright grants;  one of which is our very own Dr. Cathy Peterson, Department Chair and Associate Professor for Physical Therapy.  In January, Dr. Peterson was awarded a Fulbright grant to teach and conduct research in Malawi.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” The program has provided almost 300,000 participants —chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

In January 2012, Dr. Peterson will be teaching Physical Therapy courses at the Malawi College of Medicine.  “I am honored to have been selected for this grant and the ensuing opportunity to contribute to the development of a new physical therapy program in Malawi,” Peterson said. “With only 28 physical therapists in a country of approximately 14 million people, this new Physical Therapy program is essential for improving healthcare.

Dr. Peterson will also be completing a case study on a man with Guillian Barre Syndrome, a progressive autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks itself.   In a culture that believes in black magic many community members believe that he has been ‘ju-ju’d’ or cursed. Dr. Peterson plans to describe how the clash between the medical system and his social support resulted in him being ostracized from his village.

This will be Dr. Peterson’s fifth visit to Malawi.  Most recently she travelled there with seven Rotarians and her father to deliver medical supplies.  Before that, during three Pacific-funded visits, she established an internship site for Pacific’s Doctor of Physical Therapy students. She met with all 28 physical therapists in the country to learn about their educational experiences and how Pacific could help them become faculty members for the newly developed physical therapy program in Malawi.  She will be preparing a manuscript describing their learning styles and preferences.

The Fulbright grant will help cover the costs for airfare, provide a stipend for teaching supplies and books, and a living stipend to offset housing or provide housing.  Teaching supplies and books purchased in Malawi will remain there for use in the School.

Dr. Peterson’s Fulbright Teaching Award will be mutually beneficial for her hosts in Malawi, her Pacific students and colleagues, and her.  Her Malawian colleagues and their students will have at their disposal a dedicated and successful teacher with expertise fitting their areas of need.  In addition, her experience as an academic administrator will be an asset to this newly developed program with a physical therapist new to academia and administration at the helm.  She and her Pacific colleagues and students will benefit because she will no doubt be shaped significantly by this experience and will share the learning with her students and colleagues and her perspective will continue to grow in depth and breadth.

In addition to her academic endeavors she will undoubtedly enjoy the adventures of Malawi—village shopping, Malawian cuisine, and of course, a safari here and there.