UConn Today https://today.uconn.edu/ Thu, 01 Jun 2023 23:03:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.2 UConn Health Faculty and Students at the Inaugural Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Research Day https://today.uconn.edu/2023/06/uconn-health-faculty-and-students-at-the-inaugural-truth-racial-healing-and-transformation-trht-research-day/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/06/uconn-health-faculty-and-students-at-the-inaugural-truth-racial-healing-and-transformation-trht-research-day/#respond Thu, 01 Jun 2023 17:02:42 +0000 Lauren Woods https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199695 On May 10 the University of Connecticut hosted the first The Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Research Day at its UConn Hartford campus.  This research day is a part of a series of events centered around TRHT and is sponsored by UConn’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion.

The cross-campus event featured research posters from UConn Health students, staff, and faculty that center on diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. Also, the event’s plenary talks featured UConn Health faculty and students.

The work of several faculty and students of The Cato T. Laurencin Institute for Regenerative Engineering shined at the TRHT inaugural research day.

The Cato T. Laurencin Institute at UConn School of Medicine has many programs and initiatives that revolve around solving health disparities. The institute reports on the scholarly progress of work to understand, address, and eliminate health disparities based on race and ethnicity.

Helen Wu, Ph.D., member of The Cato T. Laurencin Institute and associate professor of the Department of Psychiatry and Gualberto Ruaño, MD, Ph.D., assistant director for Special Projects at The Cato T. Laurencin Institute presented a number of posters in conjunction with students working at the Institute.

A research poster and presentation were also shared by Reiner Gonzalez, a UConn student enrolled in The Cato T. Laurencin Institute Young Innovative Investigator Program (YIIP).

Sandro Cloiseau and Reiner Gonzalez, UConn students enrolled in The Cato T. Laurencin Institute Young Innovative Investigator Program (YIIP) presented their research in the domain of identifying and combatting health disparities.

The first poster was entitled: Successful Reduction of HBA1c in Older Blacks and Hispanics with Type 2 Diabetes. This study was aimed at examining associations between physical activity (PA) intensity levels and glycemic control in a home-based intervention program.

The second poster was entitled: Household Structure and food habits of Black and Hispanic Individuals during the Covid-19 Pandemic in Hartford, CT. They found a lack of access to nutritious and adequate food in the Hartford region.

The third poster was entitled: Building a Virtual Program to Improve Food Literacy in Health Professional Learners in Saint Lucia: Successes and Lessons. This was the first evaluation of food literacy knowledge among health professional students, reporting lower sugar and sodium guideline knowledge before training.

The final poster that was presented was entitled: Evaluating Experiential Food Literacy Learning in Young Black and Hispanic Individuals in a Community Setting. The study focused on households with children aged <8-18.

Other UConn Health participation at the event included a plenary talk delivered by Christopher Steele MD, MPH; Henry Siccardi MD, MPH; and Reiner Gonzalez, BS. Their session was entitled: From Burnside to Bedside: Overcoming Racism’s Impact on Healthcare.

Also, the Urban Services Track of CT AHEC at UConn Health presented their poster entitled Training in Culturally Competent Primary Care Delivery by Helen Wu, Biju Wang, Petra Clark-Dufner, Ellen Ravens-Seger, Robin H. Pugh Yi, and Bruce Gould.

In addition, UConn School of Nursing shared The Development of a Protocol to Assess Barriers and Facilitators to End-of-Life Care Among Blacks in an Urban Setting. The poster was presented by assistant clinical professor Amisha Parekh de Campos, PhD, MPH, RN, CHPN.

Dr. Jeffrey Hines, Chief Diversity Officer of UConn Health, presenting at the May 10 event.
Dr. Jeffrey Hines, Chief Diversity Officer of UConn Health, presenting at the May 10 event’s plenary talks.

“The scholarship at our inaugural TRHT Research Day was comprehensive and has significant implications for how we move forward with education and providing equitable care to the people we serve,” shared Dr. Jeffrey F. Hines, UConn Health’s Chief Diversity Officer. “The discission and conversation following the presentations was indicative of the importance of this work. We look forward to the future work of our UConn Health faculty, staff, and students in this space.”

The TRHT Initiative is made possible by the American Association for Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF).

For more information on UConn’s TRHT visit: https://diversity.uconn.edu/TRHT.

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UConn Fire Chief Inducted into Connecticut Firefighters Hall of Fame https://today.uconn.edu/2023/06/uconn-fire-chief-inducted-into-connecticut-firefighters-hall-of-fame/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/06/uconn-fire-chief-inducted-into-connecticut-firefighters-hall-of-fame/#respond Thu, 01 Jun 2023 11:30:03 +0000 Stephanie Reitz https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199550 Gregarious by nature, UConn Fire Chief William Perez isn’t one to send a friend’s call to voicemail if he can help it.

So when he saw a fellow Connecticut fire chief’s number pop up on his phone one day in January, he answered it even though he was in the airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, waiting for his flight home after vacation.

“He says to me, ‘Hey, Chief, congratulations!’ and I’m assuming he’s talking about something from a few months earlier. But then as we’re talking, he realizes I don’t even know what he’s congratulating me for,” Perez says with a laugh in his office recently in UConn University Safety’s headquarters.

He was in for a surprise: Waiting at home in his mailbox was a letter from the Connecticut State Firefighters Association, informing him that he had been selected as a Class of 2023 inductee into the Connecticut Firefighters Hall of Fame.

Chief Perez alongside other Hall of Fame Honorees.
Chief Perez alongside other Connecticut Firefighters Hall of Fame members. (Contributed photo)

Perez was selected in recognition of his nearly 40-year career in emergency and fire service in Connecticut, including as a paramedic, front-line firefighter, and administrator while also teaching and serving on multiple commissions and boards.

He is among the few chiefs who have been named to the Hall of Fame while still working in the field; the majority have retired before receiving the honor or have been recognized posthumously. Perez is also believed to be one of few, and perhaps the first, of Hispanic heritage.

“I was honestly shocked, and so unbelievably honored,” Perez, 58, says of being selected. “The fact that someone even thought to nominate me is just amazing on its own. I never would have dreamed of this, and I’m so grateful.”

Perez began his career in emergency services in 1987 as an EMT (emergency medical technician) in Bridgeport, advancing to become a paramedic, then field supervisor, and eventually the operations supervisor.

He joined the East Hartford Fire Department in 1993 as a firefighter/paramedic and moved up there over the years as well, retiring in 2018 as assistant fire chief after 25 years of service, including a period as acting fire chief.

He joined UConn that year as its fire chief, saying his new public safety colleagues and throughout the University made the transition easy with their welcoming approach and the department’s long record of success.

“I love the energy of working on campus, and the teamwork and professionalism displayed here is remarkable,” Perez says.

Perez has been teaching paramedic and fire service programs in Connecticut for almost 30 years and is also an adjunct instructor at the National Fire Academy in Maryland, from which he holds an Executive Fire Officer designation.

He’s an example of the adage that good things come in threes: In addition to the Hall of Fame honor, Perez, recently received the 2022 Connecticut Fire Department Instructors Association’s “Richard Platt Sylvia Instructor of the Year” award. A few months later, Gov. Ned Lamont appointed him to the Connecticut Commission on Fire Prevention and Control.

Chief Perez with Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz at the Hall of Fame ceremony.
Chief Perez with Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz at the Connecticut Firefighters Hall of Fame ceremony. (Contributed photo)

In addition to being active in the other groups, Perez is involved in the Capitol Region Fire Chiefs Association, Capitol Region Emergency Planning Committee, Capitol Region Hazardous Materials Response Team, and North Central Emergency Medical Services Board of Directors.

He has also served on advisory committees for the paramedic program at Capital Community College, where he is an instructor, and emergency management and homeland security programs of Post University and Goodwin College.

Perez, who grew up in Bridgeport, also is a U.S. Navy veteran who served as a hospital corpsman and performed active duty during Operations Iraqi Freedom, Noble Eagle, and Enduring Freedom.

When not working, Perez and his wife, Manchester Fire Lt. Moira Milton Perez, often visit her family’s 24-square-mile Milton Ranch in Roundup, Montana, where Perez helps tend to their 1,000 organic free-range black angus cattle and where they plan to eventually retire.

He holds his associate degree in paramedic sciences from Capital Community College; a bachelor’s of science from Charter Oak State College; a master’s in public administration from Anna Maria College; and a doctorate in education from University of Hartford.

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Climate Change to Push Species Over Abrupt Tipping Points https://today.uconn.edu/2023/06/climate-change-to-push-species-over-abrupt-tipping-points/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/06/climate-change-to-push-species-over-abrupt-tipping-points/#respond Thu, 01 Jun 2023 11:01:45 +0000 Combined Reports https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199351 A new study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution predicts when and where climate change is likely to expose species across the globe to potentially dangerous and unprecedented temperatures.

The research team – from the University of Connecticut, University College London, the University of Cape Town, and the University at Buffalo – analyzed data from over 35,000 species of animals (including mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, corals, fish, whales, and plankton) and seagrasses from every continent and ocean basin, alongside climate projections running up to the year 2100.

The researchers investigated when areas within each species’ geographical range will cross a threshold of thermal exposure, defined as the time when temperatures consistently exceed the most extreme temperatures experienced by a species across its geographic range over recent history (1850-2014).

“Our most critical finding was that when a species starts to be exposed to unprecedented temperatures, it happens in a coordinated way across most of the range at once. Across almost all the 35,000 species examined! That could mean that species have little opportunity to move or evolve, compared to a scenario where exposure is gradual,” says UConn Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology researcher Cory Merow.

Once the thermal exposure threshold is crossed, the species is not necessarily going to die out, but there is no evidence that it is able to survive the higher temperatures – that is, the abrupt loss of habitat due to future climate change could be disastrous for many species.

“We focused on exposure to thermal risk because it’s something we know we can forecast well. We’re not sure what a species’ responses to that risk will be, but we can use our forecasts to prioritize monitoring to determine those responses,” says Merow.

The researchers found a consistent trend that for many animals, the thermal exposure threshold will be crossed for much of their geographic range within the same decade.

Lead author Alex Pigot from the University College London Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research, UCL Biosciences says:

“It is unlikely that climate change will gradually make environments more difficult for animals to survive in. Instead, for many animals, large swathes of their geographic range are likely to become unfamiliarly hot in a short span of time. While some animals may be able to survive these higher temperatures, many other animals will need to move to cooler regions or evolve to adapt, which they likely cannot do in such short timeframes. Our findings suggest that once we start to notice that a species is suffering under unfamiliar conditions, there may be very little time before most of its range becomes inhospitable, so it’s important that we identify in advance which species may be at risk in coming decades.”

The researchers found that the extent of global warming makes a big difference: if the planet warms by 1.5°C, 15% of species they studied will be at risk of experiencing unfamiliarly hot temperatures across at least 30% of their existing geographic range in a single decade, but this doubles to 30% of species at 2.5°C of warming.

“Our study is yet another example of why we need to urgently reduce carbon emissions to mitigate the harmful effects climate change is having on animals and plants, and avoid a massive extinction crisis,” says Pigot.

The researchers hope their study could help with targeting conservation efforts, as their data provides an early warning system showing when and where particular animals are likely to be at risk.

A previous study by the same lead authors found that even if the progress of climate change is halted, so that global temperatures peak and start to decline, the risks to biodiversity could persist for decades after. In another analysis similar to the current study, they found that many species facing unfamiliar temperatures will be living alongside other animals experiencing similar temperature shocks, which could pose grave risks to local ecosystem function.

“The next phase of our research plan is to develop this for all species across the planet as part of an automated global monitoring program powered by NASA satellite observations of extreme events,” says Merow. “This work is just the tip of the iceberg.”


The study was supported by the Royal Society, the Natural Environment Research Council, the National Science Foundation (US), the African Academy of Sciences, and NASA.

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Power of Growing Diversity: Meet OB/GYN Resident Dr. Chioma Ogbejesi https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/power-of-growing-diversity-meet-ob-gyn-resident-dr-chioma-ogbejesi/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/power-of-growing-diversity-meet-ob-gyn-resident-dr-chioma-ogbejesi/#respond Wed, 31 May 2023 14:30:47 +0000 Lauren Woods https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199421 Dr. Chioma Ogbejesi, 32, of West Haven, Conn. has taken a unique and diverse path into medicine. Not only is she proudly a Black woman among the underrepresented in medicine (URim),  training to be an OB/GYN surgeon at UConn School of Medicine, but she is also a proud former nurse.

In fact, Ogbejesi graduated from UConn School of Nursing. And after several years working as a nurse, she chose to enter medical school to become a physician. She is currently a third-year resident at UConn School of Medicine spending long days training in the operating room and caring for OB/GYN patients of all ages.

 Dr. Chioma Ogbejesi.
Dr. Chioma Ogbejesi.

“I love the mixture of women’s health care needs and continuity of care I can provide to my patients from helping patients to get pregnant to their surgery needs. OB/GYN surgery is a very fulfilling field,” she says.

Also, a unique, new and growing program at UConn School of Medicine has helped Ogbejesi accomplish her medical career path goals.

During Ogbejesi’s fourth year of medical school at Central Michigan University, she applied to the UConn School of Medicine’s Visiting Externships for Students Underrepresented in Medicine (VESUM) program. It offers visiting medical students from around the country the opportunity to participate in fourth-year electives at UConn Health for four-week sessions across primary care or specialty care areas.

The VESUM program gave Ogbejesi the opportunity to rotate for four weeks through the School of Medicine’s Department of OB/GYN programs. It gifted Ogbejesi with an invaluable insider’s view of the field of OB/GYN and the institution of UConn to see what it’s really like before choosing her residency program match.

UConn was once again a perfect fit for the former UConn-trained nurse and this future OB/GYN surgeon.

“It was a total win for me,” says Ogbejesi. “The VESUM program experience was great. Mentorship is so critical, especially early on in your medical career. I definitely highly encourage others to participate in the VESUM externship program to see how good UConn residency programs are in the field you wish to apply to. The externship gave me a higher comfort level including about my residency placement choice and the opportunity to have face-to-face interactions with other UConn residents and faculty that I may not have had.”

“Chioma is a successful OB/GYN resident entering her last year of training with us at UConn School of Medicine,” says the VESUM program’s director Dr. Linda Barry. “She was the first VESUM student to match at UConn. Her trajectory of a successful match after participating in our program as a medical student to preparing to practice OB/GYN in the community is a testament to her accomplishments and the importance of such programs.”

As a mentor Barry and her VESUM program are making a big difference in the lives of talented trainees like Ogbejesi, graduate medical education, and growing diversity in academic medicine.

Ogbejesi credits her UConn OB/GYN residency success to the great mentorship and guidance she received from Barry and her VESUM program to always put her best foot forward.

“Medicine is not as diverse as it should be,” shares Ogbejesi. “Being a person of color in medicine you can experience certain challenges. It was incredibly helpful to me to have mentors like Dr. Barry help me navigate any challenges I may have faced.”

Barry, associate professor of surgery at the School of Medicine, is also interim associate dean of the Office of Multicultural and Community Affairs and interim director of the UConn Health Disparities Institute.

Ogbejesi’s inspiring UConn experience is one of the strong examples of the powerful work of UConn School of Medicine leaders and mentors working to grow diversity across academic medicine. These efforts to train a more diverse next generation of future doctors and surgeons in our medical and graduate medical education programs and outside nationally ensure that we are ready to meet the needs of our patient population.


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UConn John Dempsey Hospital Recognized for Medical Excellence with National CareChex® Awards https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/uconn-john-dempsey-hospital-recognized-for-medical-excellence-with-national-carechex-awards/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/uconn-john-dempsey-hospital-recognized-for-medical-excellence-with-national-carechex-awards/#respond Wed, 31 May 2023 14:22:56 +0000 Lauren Woods https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199587 UConn John Dempsey Hospital has been awarded five national 2023 CareChex® Awards by Quantros for medical excellence in coronary bypass surgery and neurological care. UConn’s teaching hospital is honored by CareChex for its comprehensive quality in these two medical specialties.

For 2023 CareChex ranks UConn John Dempsey Hospital as:

#1 Hospital in the Market

  • Coronary Bypass Surgery
  • Neurological Care

Top 10% Hospital in the Nation

  • Neurological Care

Top 10% Hospital in the Northeast

  • Neurological Care

Top 10% Hospital in the State

  • Neurological Care

“We are thrilled to learn that UConn John Dempsey Hospital received the 2023 CareChex award as the number one hospital in our market for neurological care, and was in the top 10% in Connecticut, the northeast region and nationally,” says Dr. L. John Greenfield, professor and chairman of the Department of Neurology at UConn Health. “This honor recognizes our continuous efforts to provide the highest quality state-of-the-art, patient-centered care, always focused on the comfort and safety of our patients.  It is especially gratifying that this award was based on patient safety and outcomes data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, rather than subjective ratings or popularity.”

“The excellence of our comprehensive management of coronary artery disease and results of coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) is a reflection of the exceptional team work at UConn John Dempsey Hospital,” says Dr. Chittoor B. Sai Sudhakar, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at UConn Health.

CareChex Awards are powered by the Quantros Quality Outcomes Analytics Software. Unlike other publicly available award rankings CareChex awards are based on comprehensive risk-adjustment methodology and do not include any self-reported data.

The CareChex ratings at the national, state, and regional level are based on publicly available data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The CareChex awards are based on a rigorous review of patient complications, readmissions, and mortality.

Learn more at www.carechexawards.com.

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11 UConn Students Named Gilman Scholars https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/11-uconn-students-named-gilman-scholars/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/11-uconn-students-named-gilman-scholars/#respond Wed, 31 May 2023 11:30:07 +0000 Mike Enright '88 (CLAS), University Communications https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199431 The Gilman Scholarship, a prestigious academic award congressionally funded through the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs at the State Department, has been awarded to 11 UConn students for the current application cycle. The funding supports broadening student participation in study abroad programs and encourages travel to diverse locations around the globe, along with intensive language study and internship experiences.

“We are thrilled to see our campus outreach efforts and student advising for the Gilman scholarship result in this level of success,” says Valerie Jenkelunas, Experiential Global Learning (EGL) advisor and community liaison specialist. “We had a total of 26 students apply from UConn, and 11 were chosen for awards between $3,000 and $5,000. This surpasses the statistical average of applicants awarded nationally.”

With more than 13,000 applicants from over 450 colleges each year, the Gilman Scholarship program is a highly competitive scholarship. Approximately one in four applicants are selected to receive the scholarship.

Each Gilman Scholar is also required to complete a service project upon their return from studying abroad in their campus or home community, with the goal of sharing the value of participation in study abroad and promoting the scholarship to prospective students. Applications are reviewed with consideration for the proposed follow-on service project.

Eligibility for the Gilman Scholarship requires undergraduate students to be Pell Grant-eligible, United States citizens who plan to study abroad for academic credit, through a program approved by their home institution. Supporting students with high financial need provides access to students who are historically under-represented in study abroad, including first-generation college students, STEM majors, ethnic and racial minority students, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students, and others who experience barriers to participation.

Students from underrepresented areas of the U.S. are also considered during the application process and this year there are recipients from all 50 states.

UConn students are from an area of the nation that is highly represented in study abroad, making their award status even more impressive, considering the many colleges and universities in New England, including the ivy leagues.

The following UConn students were selected as Gilman scholars and they are listed with their proposed follow-on service project:

Rebekah Bacon ’25 (CLAS), a psychology major from Stamford, who will study in the summer of 2023 in the Interdisciplinary Ethnography Field School program in Flic-en-Flac, Mauritius. She will provide outreach to underrepresented students at UConn Stamford.

Zarria Bethea ’24 (CAHNR), an allied health science major, who will take part in the Summer Mediterranean Diet and Tuscan Cuisine program, in Florence, Italy, in the summer of 2023. She will provide outreach to students from the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Leadership and Academic Enhancement Program.

Kayla Dubbs ’24 (CAHNR), an environmental science major from Fairfield, who will study at the Umbra Institute, in Perugia, Italy, in the fall of 2023. She will provide outreach to environmental sciences majors.

Valerie Duque ’24 (CLAS) a psychological sciences major from Stratford, who will participate in the Neuroscience in Salamanca program in Spain, during the summer of 2023. She will provide outreach to students in UConn’s Community Outreach programs.

Victoria Amy Eweka ’24 (CLAS), a psychology major with a minor in information technology, who will study during the 2023-24 academic year at the University of Konstanz in Germany. She will provide outreach to German language classes and demonstrate the value of studying abroad through art.

Sarah Khouja ’25 (ED), an elementary education major from Stratford, who will study at the Umbra Institute, in Perugia, Italy, in the summer of 2023. She will provide outreach to Stratford-area high school students.

Alexandra Luhrs ’24 (NUR), a nursing major from Bethel, who is participating in the End of Life Palliative Care program in in the spring of 2023 in Ghent, Belgium. She will provide outreach to students in the School of Nursing.

Yelena Muralles ’25 (CLAS), an international relations and French major from New Haven, who will study at Lund University in Sweden for the 2023-24 academic year. She will provide outreach to students in the Academic Center for Exploratory Students.

Patrick Murphy ’24 (CLAS), an individualized major from Manchester, who will participate in the Summer Field Ecology in South Africa program, in the Limpopo province of South Africa in the summer of 2024. He will outreach to students in the individualized majors program.

Kasidy Quiles ’23 (CAHNR), a global studies and allied health major from Shelton, who will participate in the Summer Neuroscience in Salamanca program the summer of 2023 in Salamanca, Spain. She will outreach to students in Bridgeport community participating in the Bridgeport Caribe Youth Leaders program.

Julio Tozetto ’25 (CAHNR), a natural resources major from Branford, who will participate in the Organization for Tropical Studies African Ecology and Conservation program in fall 2023 at Kruger National Park in South Africa. He will outreach to Branford High School students enrolled in STEM courses.


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Anesthesia Can Cause Disturbing Sexual Hallucinations, Leading to Lasting Psychological Trauma https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/anesthesia-can-cause-disturbing-sexual-hallucinations-leading-to-lasting-psychological-trauma/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/anesthesia-can-cause-disturbing-sexual-hallucinations-leading-to-lasting-psychological-trauma/#respond Wed, 31 May 2023 11:15:45 +0000 Tom Breen https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199531 Some patients can have vivid and detailed sexual hallucinations during anesthesia with sedative-hypnotic drugs like propofol, midazolam, diazepam and nitrous oxide. Some make suggestive or sexual comments or act out, such as grabbing or kissing medical professionals or touching themselves in a sexual way. Others awaken erroneously believing they were sexually assaulted. Why does this happen?

Doctors have long known that sedative-hypnotic drugs, which slow down brain activity to induce calm or sleep, can affect a patient’s perception of reality. A 1984 review of the drugs midazolam, ketamine and thiopental found that 18% of patients receiving anesthesia for a dental or medical procedure had a hard time distinguishing reality from fantasy during and shortly after administration. Similarly, a 1980 study found that around 14% of patients report some sexual dreaming or arousal while under anesthesia. It’s no surprise that together these two features of anesthesia could sometimes manifest in sexual hallucinations.

There have been rare cases in which medical professionals used a patient’s unconscious state to commit sexual assault. For instance, in 1991, a health professional sexually assaulted a university student under anesthesia. Although the case was initially dismissed on the grounds that the patient could have had a drug-induced sexual hallucination, genetic evidence the health professional left behind later led to his conviction. It cannot be assumed that all cases of reported sexual assault under anesthesia are due to a sexual hallucination.

We are pharmacology researchers who recently reviewed the medical literature on sexual assault or sexual fantasy during anesthesia from the earliest documented case to February 2023, finding 87 reported cases from 17 published papers. Better understanding what triggers unpleasant or sexual dreams under anesthesia could help researchers figure out how to reduce the risk of hallucinations to keep both patients and providers safe.

Reports of Sexual Hallucinations

Sixteen of the individual cases we found in our review involved patients reporting sexually amorous behavior or perceived sexual assault. In these cases, observers like health professionals or family members were also present during the procedure, reducing the chance that the sexual behavior actually occurred versus being hallucinated.

We also found a striking match between the anatomic location of the procedure and where the patient perceived inappropriate sexual contact. Procedures involving the mouth were perceived as oral sex, squeezing a ball to make a vein more accessible as squeezing a penis, chest procedures as breast fondling and groin procedures as vaginal penetration.

This may explain why one assessment of 200 patients found no cases of sexual hallucination for those undergoing gallbladder or appendix procedures involving the abdomen, but around 12% of those undergoing vaginal procedures noted amorous or sexually disinhibited behavior.

Trauma for Both Patients and Providers

These anesthesia effects can have major real-world impacts on patients and providers that last long after the surgery.

The emotional turmoil a patient undergoes is likely the same whether actually experiencing sexual assault under anesthesia or having vivid hallucinations of the event. And practitioners too can experience distress: Some medical professionals accused of real or perceived sexual assault have been brought before regulatory boards or the courts and lose their license to practice.

It is possible that if patients knew a hallucination of sexual assault is a rare but possible adverse effect of anesthesia before they receive it, and were aware of the steps medical providers are taking to reduce that risk, they would be less likely to believe their sexual hallucinations were real. But this would not lessen the trauma of the hallucination. In one case, an anesthesiology student volunteered in a study where she experienced sexual hallucination after taking sedative-hypnotics. Although she knew her vivid memories of the sexual assault weren’t real, the distress she felt over them led her to withdraw from the study.

In our review of the literature, we found 71 individual cases in which the medical professional was alone with the patient at the time of the alleged sexual assault or sexual behavior. For the safety and well-being of both patients and medical professionals, having witnesses in the room or recording devices during dental or medical procedures could help prevent an opportunity for sexual assault and reassure patients that the hallucinations they may experience are not real.

However, the health care system needs to go further to protect patients. Patients struggling with the trauma of hallucinated sexual assault, even if there is evidence that it did not occur in reality, should be referred to counseling and supported just like someone who was physically harmed during a medical or dental procedure.

Many Unknowns Remain

What makes some people more likely to recall their dreams while under anesthesia is unclear. A 2009 study of 97 patients receiving propofol reported that those who frequently remember their dreams after anesthesia received higher doses of anesthetics, were younger than 50 years old and took longer to recover from anesthesia. A 2013 study of 200 patients receiving propofol found that men were more likely to remember dreams after anesthesia but women were more likely to remember unpleasant dreams. While dreaming and hallucinations are related experiences, people experiencing hallucinations believe they could plausibly be real.

While we reviewed all published cases of sexual hallucinations in the medical literature, the actual incidence of anesthesia-induced sexual hallucinations remains unknown. Given the decades that have passed since the first reported cases, more work needs to be done. Data from a very large sample size of patients will be required to understand the prevalence of sexual hallucinations under anesthesia. However, drug companies are reluctant to spend money on research that may show that their drugs cause adverse side effects.

Finally, though we limited our review to reports of sexual hallucinations during anesthesia, millions of Americans use other prescription sedative-hypnotic drugs. Benzodiazepines like alprazolam (Xanax) and temazepam (Restoril) are used to treat anxiety and induce sleep. Z-drugs like zolpidem (Ambien) and eszopiclone (Lunesta) as well as suvorexant (Belsomra) and sodium oxybate (Xyrem) are also used to induce sleep. Opioids like morphine and oxycodone and gabapentinoids like gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica) are used to treat pain. Muscle relaxers like carisoprodol (Soma) and cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) are used for muscle spasms. All of these drugs have had reported cases of patients experiencing hallucinations while taking them.

In a review of the FDA Adverse Events Reporting System, which public health officials and researchers use to monitor drug safety, 30,728 cases of “abnormal dreaming” were reported from 1974 through 2022. Most involved sedative-hypnotic drugs treating insomnia, anxiety, pain and muscle spasms. The reports do not specify the nature of these dreams, or how they affected the patient’s own perceived well-being.

It is important for patients to be aware that abnormal dreaming is a possibility when starting a sedative-hypnotic medication, and to inform their health professional if they experience hallucinations. These symptoms could indicate that the drug is not the right choice for you or that the dose may be too high.

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Class of 2023 School of Dental Medicine Students and Faculty Celebrate Accomplishments https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/class-of-2023-school-of-dental-medicine-students-and-faculty-celebrate-accomplishments/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/class-of-2023-school-of-dental-medicine-students-and-faculty-celebrate-accomplishments/#respond Tue, 30 May 2023 15:26:56 +0000 Jennifer Walker https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199594 On May 3rd the UConn School of Dental Medicine celebrated the accomplishments of the graduating Class of 2023 with the annual farewell and awards ceremony before UConn Health’s 52nd Commencement ceremony on May 8th.

The event at the Pond House in West Hartford allowed the students to gather with their classmates one last time before heading off to their residencies. The ceremony included faculty well-wishes as well as the announcement of faculty and student awards.

Dean of the School of Dental Medicine, Dr. Steven Lepowsky, opened the ceremony by congratulating the class on completing the most challenging and rigorous dental educational programs.

“I congratulate you on all your achievements and accomplishments that have brought you to this point, which are even more impressive considering the incredible impact that COVID-19 had on your education and your life,” said Lepowsky. “There will be a time when you will be able to look back and reflect upon the past few years and realize that this experience will have had a life-changing impact on who you are, as a person, as a dentist, and as a member of society.

The students heard inspiring remarks from Kathlene Gerrity, executive director of the CT State Dental Association as well as UConn Alum and president of the UConn Dental Alumni Board, Dr. Ron Birmingham ’10.

Dr. Sarita Arteaga, associate dean for students, kicked off the awards portion of the ceremony by applauding the students for their hard work and achievements.

“We are here to recognize and applaud you,” said Arteaga. “You have been resilient and now ready for many of your future challenges. The individual disciplines have submitted nominations and you have been selected by the Awards Committee to acknowledge your accomplishments.”

Students from the commencement committee, Caroline Wilson, Madeline Montenegro, Natasha Patel, and Basant Sallam announced the faculty awards. Dr. Thomas Taylor received the South Park Inn Dental Clinic Award for his outstanding service to the community. Dr. Shivani C. Suvarna received the Kaiser Permanente Faculty Award for excellence in teaching in the clinical sciences.

The student awards were selected by the senior awards committee, a committee made up of a diverse group of faculty, with nominations from faculty from each of the School’s disciplines. The full list of awards and award winners is below.

American Association of Endodontists Student Achievement Award
Demonstrates a skill level in endodontics that is above average.
Edward Amelemah

Academy of General Dentistry Senior Student Dental Award
Student who exhibits potential for becoming an outstanding General Dentist
Addison Vitols

Academy of Operative Dentistry Award
Exemplifies outstanding achievement in operative dentistry.
Johnathan Leonard

American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry Student Award of Merit
Student who has demonstrated the highest level of clinical proficiency and greatest interest in esthetic dentistry.
Brianna Alves

The Quintessence Award for Clinical Achievement in Restorative Dentistry
Presented to a student for achievement in Restorative Dentistry
Christopher Allen

Olmstead Prize in Geriatrics
To recognize outstanding achievement in Geriatric Dentistry
Lauren Gross

Society for Color and Appearance in Dentistry (SCAD)
Awarded to a dental student who demonstrates the highest level of clinical proficiency with a great interest in color and appearance, either through esthetic clinical dentistry or research
Carlos Cardenas Peralta


American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology Dental Student Award
Demonstrates exemplary aptitude and achievement in Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
Jonathan Leonard and Madeline Montenegro


Allan B. Reiskin Award
For outstanding achievement in Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
Laura Doherty and Emma Warren


American Academy of Oral Medicine Award
For developing and maintaining high standards for excellence, interest and achievement in oral medicine
Elyse Estra


American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Dental Student Award
To recognize a dental student who has shown outstanding performance in the area of dental implant placement.
Catherine Florentine

American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Dental Implant Award
To recognize a dental student with high academic standing for outstanding performance in undergraduate student and clinical training in the area of oral and maxillofacial surgery and anesthesiology
Kyle Grabowski

American College of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Award (2022)
For outstanding achievement in Oral Surgery
Catherine Florentine

Connecticut Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Award
To a student who has excelled in activities at the SDM related to Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Flaviah Muchemi


Health Careers Mentorship Award
Serves with distinction as a mentor.
Edward Amelemah, Carlos Cardenas Peralta, Talia Staiger and Flaviah Muchemi


American Association of Orthodontists Award
Demonstrates exceptional interest in the development of the Oro-Facial Complex
Emma Warren

Dr. Surender Nanda Memorial Award
For exceptional interest in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
Julia Witt


American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Certificate of Merit
For outstanding promise in the field of Pediatric Dentistry
Carly Ramirez

Special Care Dentistry Association/Academy of Dentistry for Persons with Disabilities Award
For Outstanding contributions in the delivery of oral health care to patients with special health care needs
Caroline Wilson


American Academy of Periodontology Award
For outstanding achievement in Periodontics
Evan Jansen

Northeastern Society of Periodontists Award
Excellence in the field of periodontics
Matthew Wittstein

The Quintessence Award for Clinical Achievement in Periodontics
Achievement in Clinical Periodontics
Quinn Kropf


2022 ASDA Award of Excellence
Student who honors the spirit of volunteerism and recognizes student participation or leadership in service to their school or local community.
Audrey Brigham


American College of Prosthodontists Achievement Award
To a student who excelled in Prosthodontics
Audrey Brigham

American Prosthodontic Society Award
Awarded to a student with the highest level of clinic proficiency and greatest interest in prosthodontic dentistry.
Elyse Estra

Hanautm Best of the Best Prosthodontic Award
To a student who has demonstrated excellence in Prosthodontics
Carlos Cardenas Peralta

Kohrman Award
To a student who has demonstrated excellence in removable Prosthodontics
Addison Vitols


American Academy of Implant Dentistry Student Award
For outstanding achievement, academically and clinically in implant dentistry
London Minta

Academy of Osseointegration Outstanding Dental Student in Implant Dentistry
Given to a student to support and expand their interests, education, and research in dental implants.
Kyle Grabowski

International Congress of Oral Implantologists/Dentsply Student Achievement Award
Student who has demonstrated the most interest in and enthusiasm for dental implantology.
Catherine Florentine


American College of Dentists Outstanding Student Leadership Award (Yankee Dental Congress)
To a student who has demonstrated leadership and outstanding scholastic performance
Elyse Estra

Dr. Robert G. Levine Award
Presented to an outstanding student continuing in an Advanced Education in General Dentistry or General Practice Residency program.
Lauren Gross

Dr. Richard G. Topazian Prize
Awarded to a student who demonstrates volunteerism and service to Humanity.
Flaviah Muchemi

The Dr. Loeb Prize
Awarded to a student who is a resident of Connecticut and has been selected for qualities of leadership.
Natasha Patel

Friends of the School of Dental Medicine – Fox Award
Awarded to the student judged to the best all-around in the class.
Catherine Florentine

International College of Dentists Student Humanitarian Award
Awarded to a graduating student who has demonstrated exemplary character traits when participating in humanitarian service or projects.
Decelia Makera Gen Browne

International College of Dentists Student Leadership Award
Awarded to a graduating student who has demonstrated significant leadership traits when participating in humanitarian service or projects.
Talia Staiger

The Brian D. Stone Student Memorial Award
Presented to an outstanding senior dental student who embodies the mission of Dental Lifeline Network by demonstrating exceptional volunteer service or care for patients with special needs.
Ryan Carrera

The Pierre Fauchard Academy Award
Presented to an outstanding and deserving student who has exhibited leadership and
whose accomplishments have demonstrated dedication to the advancement of the dental profession and literature.
Catherine Florentine

The Quintessence Award for Research Achievement
Presented to a student for research achievement.
Matthew Wittstein

University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine Professional Development Award
To a senior student who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in professional development over the four years of the curriculum
Samuel Ratcliffe

Academic Achievement Award 2023 Sponsored by the Provost’s Commission on the Status of Women, the UConn Alumni Association, and the Women’s Center
Excelled academically and demonstrated high achievement in research and service to the University community.
Talia Staiger

American Association of Women Dentists Eleanor J. Bushee Senior Dental Student Award
The recipient of this award should demonstrate enthusiasm in her career in dentistry and in her life as a colleague, friend, and mentor.
Addison Vitols

The Alumni Relations Award
Appreciation of student leadership and commitment to the UConn School of Dental Medicine
Alumni Advisory Board
Jacob Burns

The South Park Inn Homeless Shelter Award
For long-standing service to the South Park Inn Homeless Shelter Dental Clinic
Talia Staiger

Phi Chi Chapter of Omicron Kappa Upsilon 2023 Inductees
Inducted into the Phi Chi Chapter of OKU National Honor Dental Society with a focus on scholarship and character.
Audrey Brigham, Carlos Cardenas Peralta, Catherine Florentine, Lauren Gross, Talia Staiger, and Caroline Wilson

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The Making of a UConn Startup https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/the-making-of-a-uconn-startup/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/the-making-of-a-uconn-startup/#respond Tue, 30 May 2023 11:40:30 +0000 Mac Murray https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199453 Like the company they created together, Leila Daneshmandi ’20 Ph.D., ’21 MA and Armin Tahmasbi Rad ’19 Ph.D., ’20 MA got their starts at UConn.

During their PhDs, Daneshmandi focused on tissue regeneration, while Rad specialized in nanotechnology and cancer medicine. The stars aligned for the creation of their biotech startup when they both enrolled in a class on technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship led by Profs. Hadi Bozorgmanesh and David Noble.  

“That’s where we came together and we learned about the process of user-driven innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Daneshmandi. The pair began to speculate about what they could accomplish by combining their respective expertise.

Four years later, their startup, Encapsulate, is on a mission to change the future of precision cancer treatment. 

Growing (and treating) tumors on a chip 

Before the launch of Encapsulate, Rad had been working with Prof. Mu-Ping Nieh in the Institute of Materials Science to create a nanoscale universal drug delivery system for fighting cancer. The resulting product could “encapsulate” any type of cancer drug for targeted delivery into tumors. During its development process, Rad worked with cutting-edge ex vivo research techniques, which allow scientists to test the efficacy of different treatments on patient cell samples that are cultured outside the body.

Three white plastic chips with fluid reservoirs sit under a microscope.
Encapsulate’s signature biochips at work. (McKaylah DeKay)

Drug developers have had a few decades to appreciate ex vivo research since the technique’s development, around the close of the last century. But clinicians and patients typically don’t have access to the same technology for their own use. Together, Daneshmandi and Rad began envisioning a way to bridge that gap: an automated system that would allow cancer patients to receive personalized, precision medicine based on tests from their own tumor biopsies.

Currently, oncologists monitor patients’ response to a given treatment, determining after a certain period whether a therapy had a positive, negative, or negligible effect on the patient’s cancer. Often the wait means a loss of valuable time, with the care team ending up back at square one if the treatment isn’t effective. 

Rad, Daneshmandi, and their co-founder, Reza Amin ’18 Ph.D., ’20 MA, wanted to create a technology that would allow clinicians to test multiple drugs at once and quickly determine the best course of action for each patient. 

In short, they wanted to develop nCapsule, the startup’s signature product. This biochip is “able to very quickly, very precisely mimic the body,” according to Rad. It can grow bona fide microtumors using the cells from patients’ tumors. Encapsulate’s other staple technology, nCapsulizer, processes the biochips and tackles treatment analysis. 

“You will find a way to persevere” 

Early responses to their idea ran the gamut, from skepticism to enthusiastic collaboration. Daneshmandi describes being kicked out of one office in the early days of their talks with clinicians. 

“Someone said, ‘This is never going to work,’” she recalls. “It’s definitely not easy. Not everyone is going to say, ‘This is brilliant. I can’t believe no one has done this before.’ You will hear many critiques, especially in the early days, but you know, you actually want that. You want all the feedback to take it all in and build something better based on the questions and concerns you get.” 

The startup’s success is a testament to Rad and Daneshmandi’s perseverance and commitment to creating a product that meets the needs of oncologists and patients. They worked closely with Dr. Bret Schipper, the chief of surgical oncology at Hartford Hospital, and took feedback and advice from industry stakeholders. Their background research also involved conversations with patients in various stages of cancer treatment. 

Speaking with cancer patients about how Encapsulate could help them was a sobering reminder of the urgency of their work, Daneshmandi says.  

The researchers handle a clear plastic chip containing cell samples.
Rad and Daneshmandi work together in the lab. (McKaylah DeKay)

“When you sit down and have a conversation with a patient who would eventually be using your technology, and you hear their stories, that’s when it starts to come into reality a little bit more. That’s when you realize you have the potential to change the life of someone who’s experiencing pain, unnecessary pain,” she says. “Those were difficult conversations.” 

The talks galvanized them to bring their technology to market, and quickly. From conception to clinical studies, Encapsulate’s development process took about three years, according to Rad. The experience taught both researchers a great deal about maintaining conviction in an idea and working hard to clear the hurdles to helping others. 

“I want to tell this to my young fellows at UConn, students who are dreaming about their own ideas,” Rad says. “You will find a way to persevere. It’s difficult, and there are many bumps in the road, but you will work hard and meet wonderful people along the way that make the journey enjoyable.” 

Shooting for the stars 

Daneshmandi and Rad netted an impressive number of awards from UConn, the state of Connecticut, and external organizations for their work with Encapsulate. Their research journey made them remarkably successful Ph.D. students: they graduated with a combined total of no less than six patents and 28 published papers. They are now completing their NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project.  

But perhaps the most exciting endorsement was the “Technology in Space” prize from Boeing and the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory, which will allow researchers to test Encapsulate’s technologies under the zero-gravity conditions of the ISS. 

The company’s biochips are set to launch to the ISS this summer, according to Daneshmandi. The mission’s dual aims are to develop a universal platform for cancer research in the space station (which will require instruments that can perform analysis mostly autonomously, in a hands-off research environment), and to gain insight into chemotherapy in zero gravity. 

“We know that cancer cells behave differently in space– because of the conditions of zero gravity – but we don’t know yet how that will affect treatment efficacy, and that’s what we want to explore,” Rad says. 

Daneshmandi and Rad stand together outside their lab in Farmington.
Daneshmandi and Rad outside the lab in Farmington. (McKaylah DeKay)

Here on Earth, Encapsulate is busy with patient trials, exploring business development opportunities with partner companies, and gearing up for their next priced round to raise funds. Since graduating with his Ph.D., Rad has worked full-time as the company’s CEO, based out of its headquarters in Farmington. For her part, Daneshmandi has joined UConn’s faculty as an Assistant Professor in Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the School of Engineering and serves as the School’s Entrepreneurship Hub (eHub) Director. She also continues to work as Encapsulate’s COO, commuting between Storrs and Farmington.  

The energy that first animated their partnership keeps them afloat through all the challenges of running a startup and conducting research. 

You’re chartering into this world of unknowns — it could tire you out. But at the end of the day, are you really passionate about solving the problem that you’re working toward? Do you wake up every day excited about what you’re doing? And is your heart really into it?” Daneshmandi says. “That’s what keeps you going.” 

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UConn On-Campus Construction Update: June 2023 https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/uconn-on-campus-construction-update-june-2023/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/uconn-on-campus-construction-update-june-2023/#respond Tue, 30 May 2023 11:30:55 +0000 Stephanie Reitz https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199411 While some activities may slow down at UConn Storrs over the summer, the recent end of the spring semester heralded an acceleration in several construction projects that will prompt detours and other temporary changes.

The projects are part of UConn’s work to meet the current and future needs of its student body, research mission, and academic operations.

With that work often closing roads or requiring other changes, the University provides regular updates to inform students, faculty, staff, and guests about the status of significant projects and to help them anticipate changes in traffic and pedestrian patterns.

Like the reconstruction of North Eagleville Road from 2016 to 2018, the temporary inconveniences caused by the construction will be far outweighed by the long-term benefits, and the University requests patience and understanding as it tries to minimize the disturbances.

South Campus Residence Hall and Infrastructure Construction

Construction continues on the new South Campus residence hall near the corner of Mansfield and Gilbert roads. The facility will have 657 beds and a 500-seat dining hall, and is expected to open to residents in fall 2024.

A related project to extend necessary infrastructure to the site will be starting soon, including work to provide geothermal heating and cooling in the new residence hall.

To accommodate the construction, UConn expects to enact detours and other traffic pattern changes around the area at various times, which will be posted in advance by UConn Planning, Design, and Construction and managed with on-site personnel as needed to ensure safety and traffic flow.

Utilities to some nearby sites may also be temporarily shut down at times during the work, and the work will require occasional detours to pedestrian routes and other changes. Information on bus routes and stops can be found on the UConn Transportation website.

Some of the anticipated road closures and detours over the summer include the following, all of which are subject to change as needed:

• The area of Mansfield Road between Coventry Road and Whitney Road will be closed from mid-July to mid-August, and again in summer 2024. Whitney Road will temporarily be used for two-way traffic to reach the areas around Gulley and Manchester halls, and the Family Sciences and Budds buildings.

• Gilbert Road will be closed between Whitney Road Extension and Mansfield Road starting in mid-July and remain closed throughout the coming academic year, with an anticipated reopening in mid-August 2024. Access will be available via Bolton Road.

• This fall, Whitney Road Extension will temporarily close; adjacent areas will be reachable via Mansfield Road.

• Starting in September and running through spring 2024, Maple and Coventry roads will be closed and access will be available via Bolton Road and Mansfield Road.

• Parking lots R and S will be affected as well:

– Lot R (the Fine Arts lot, Area 1 permit parking) will be partially closed between mid-July through this fall.
– Lot S, which provides Area 2 permit parking nearby, will be partially closed starting in mid-July and running through summer 2025.

Mansfield Apartments Demolition and Replacement

A separate student housing project also will be taking place in the southeastern corner of campus, albeit on a different schedule: replacing the former Mansfield Apartments complex with new student apartments with modern amenities.

The 16-acre site, located near the corner of Routes 195 and 275 at the southeastern corner of UConn Storrs, was cleared of many of the existing buildings in late winter and throughout spring. The site is being prepared for new construction, and demolition activities will be completed in June.

If all remains on schedule, the new housing construction would begin in summer 2024 and the apartments would open in time for students to move in starting in fall 2026.

Construction truck traffic to and from the site will be coordinated along with that of the South Campus residence hall traffic, with the same considerations of avoiding heavy commuter periods and E.O. Smith High School bus travel times.

More details will be provided on detours, construction logistics, and other impacts in the coming months.

Other Projects in the Works

• Work will take place over the summer to start renovations at the Mark Edward Freitas Forum to become the new home of UConn Women’s Volleyball now that the ice hockey teams have moved to the Toscano Family Ice Arena.

The Freitas project includes removing the ice-making system, dasher boards, and other hockey-specific features in the Freitas Forum. It also includes renovating the locker room and associated spaces, replacing the arena’s audience seating, and related updates.

Renovations on the playing surface are expected to be far enough along so that the volleyball team will start the 2023 season there if all remains on schedule. The remaining work to the locker rooms will be done in early 2024, after the 2023 season concludes.

• Safety-related improvements are underway to traffic signal and pedestrian facilities at the intersection of North Eagleville Road and Discovery Drive. Work will also be included at the nearby intersection of North Eagleville and Auditorium roads since their signalization controls are linked.

New poles, mast arms, and traffic control equipment will be added this fall along with pedestrian signal heads, push-button pedestals, curb ramp and crosswalk improvements, and other features. The signals are expected to be operational in or before November. The roads will not close, but some traffic patterns might be temporarily amended for short periods during specific parts of the project.

• Gampel Pavilion’s iconic wood basketball court is being replaced with a new maple surface over the summer, with plans to have it ready for the new basketball season this fall.

The floor was installed shortly before Gampel opened in January 1990 and has been sanded and refinished annually to keep it in playable condition. However, the court has reached the end of its useful life and cannot be further sanded.

The project entails removing the wood flooring, inspecting and repairing the subfloor, installing the new maple floor, and finishing it with sanding and final painting. Plans are in the works to sell pieces of the wood planks to fans as a fund-raiser, although details have not yet been publicized.

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Finding a Home in the Asian American Cultural Center https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/helping-asian-students-feel-at-home-at-uconn/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/helping-asian-students-feel-at-home-at-uconn/#respond Fri, 26 May 2023 12:10:27 +0000 Emily Zangari https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199542 Fahd A. Vahidy ’95 (CLAS), ’98 MA and Monika Doshi ’99 (CLAS) know what it’s like to feel like an outsider at college.

Both were raised by immigrant families and were newcomers to the American college experience at UConn in the 1990s. Both were grateful to find a home on campus at the Asian American Cultural Center.

Since graduating, they have generously donated to and volunteered for the center, helping many students along the way feel less like outsiders. They’ve been mentors and lecturers, served on many student and alumni panels, and rarely miss an event.

They have also contributed in several other ways to the greater UConn community. Vahidy, who is a philanthropic advisor to William C. Graustein, a Connecticut-based philanthropist, recently began serving on the advisory board for UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“It’s great to be reconnected to CLAS and to be in conversation about academic programs, students’ experiences, and how alumni are able to support new and exciting efforts,” he says.

Doshi, an assistant professor at Brown University’s School of Public Health, has been invited as a guest lecturer by different academic departments, centers, and institutes at UConn, including the Asian American Studies Institute, the History and Sociology departments, and the Rainbow Center. She has also consulted for UConn’s Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy, better known as InCHIP, a center where researchers from across disciplines come together to collaborate on projects.

They both agree that the student body has become more diverse and UConn as an institution has made great efforts to ensure student voices and experiences continue to be a priority.

“I think the student body is very different now and they are quite active,” Vahidy says. “It’s been so encouraging to see where the student body is going in terms of acting upon their values and organizing in a way to support the type of culture that we can all be really proud of. I’m very excited and bullish about the future of UConn,” he says.

Vahidy and Doshi, who live in West Hartford, Connecticut, have both devoted much of their lives to public service. In addition to his volunteer work at UConn, Vahidy has served on several local and state-wide boards and recently joined the boards of the NewAlliance Foundation and the Student Loan Fund. Doshi spent the first half of her career as an independent consultant working on public health projects mainly in Africa and Asia.

But most of their giving supports the Asian American Cultural Center, which provided critical support and a host of transformative academic and non-academic experiences when they were students.

“It made me come to terms with my own identity,” Doshi says. “At that age, I was struggling quite a bit with my identity, just being an immigrant to this country and straddling two very different cultures.”

Both remain close to the center’s director, Angela Rola, whom they consider “extended family.” Rola says the feeling is mutual, adding that she values the couple’s energy and commitment to the center.

“They are very humble and genuine and that’s what we appreciate,” Rola says. “I know when they come to lecture in classes or sit on alumni panels that students get a lot from them. The students appreciate the roads they’ve traveled because they see themselves in Monika and Fahd and see that, ‘Oh, the struggles that I’m feeling now are very similar to what they’re talking about.’ They see the trajectory that they’ve gone through and that’s an inspiration for many students.

“They do this because it gives them a sense of purpose,” she adds. “They believe in the power of education and their contributions here have had a critical impact on generations of students. They are extraordinary people.”

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White-tailed Deer Bones Give a Glimpse into Connecticut’s Past and May Help Inform a More Sustainable Future https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/white-tailed-deer-bones-give-a-glimpse-into-connecticuts-past-and-may-help-inform-a-more-sustainable-future/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/white-tailed-deer-bones-give-a-glimpse-into-connecticuts-past-and-may-help-inform-a-more-sustainable-future/#respond Fri, 26 May 2023 11:36:22 +0000 Elaina Hancock https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199490 In Connecticut, deer are a frequent sight, whether they are quietly munching on plants around our yards, bounding into the cover of trees with a flash of white from their tails, or after they don’t safely make it across a busy road. Though we may take them for granted, these deer have been here for millennia, and their story is intertwined with the human story of our region.

Elic Weitzel is a UConn anthropology Ph.D. candidate studying resource management from the past, and the history of white-tailed deer in the region is providing a glimpse into what life was like for people in Connecticut centuries ago. Weitzel analyzed thousands of animal bones from a Wangunk tribal settlement just south of present-day Hartford to learn more about the Wangunk and to glean information about their hunting practices, specifically to look for evidence that hunting in the pre-colonial period had negative impacts on deer. His findings are published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

Weitzel in UConn's Zooarchaeology Laboratory working with bone specimens from the comparative collection.
Weitzel in UConn’s Zooarchaeology Laboratory working with bone specimens from the comparative collection (UConn Photo).

The site, called the Morgan Site, was a maize horticultural village occupied from the 11th to 14th centuries, explains Weitzel, and the data indicate interesting patterns about white-tailed deer in Connecticut, supporting a hypothesis that white-tailed deer are resilient to overhunting by humans.

“I think it’s an important data point for wildlife managers, for archaeologists, and for everybody to understand what’s going on with deer in New England,” says Weitzel.

After the white-tailed deer population grew to near-ubiquity around 8,000 years ago, Weitzel says the species became an important food resource for those living in eastern North America. Indigenous populations hunted the deer for thousands of years and later, European settlers in the colonial period also relied heavily on deer, nearly driving the species to extinction. Weitzel is hoping to set a pre-colonization baseline of the white-tailed population to better understand how the deer’s resilience changed post-European contact.

“Archaeologists struggle to find clear evidence that white-tailed deer populations were ever negatively impacted by Native hunting. I’ve looked at archaeological sites in Alabama and I didn’t find evidence of over-exploitation of white-tailed deer going on. Ecologists estimate that there might have been between 9 and 18 million white-tailed deer on the eve of European colonization, around 15-1600 AD, but we know for sure that by 1900 AD, just 123 years ago, there were only 300,000 white-tailed deer in all North America. That is only one to five percent of what their original population was after thousands of years that Native folks were hunting deer regularly.”

Weitzel analyzed around 3,000 animal bones excavated from the Morgan Site, representing species like raccoons, turtles, a black bear, and bobcat bones, but the majority belonged to the abundant white-tailed deer, which is why he focused on that species.

Other lines of evidence indicate the presence of a high population of deer, says Weitzel, such as finding complete skeletons.

A tray containing bone fragments excavated from the Morgan Site, representing species like raccoons, turtles, black bear, and bobcat bones, but the majority belonged to white-tailed deer.
A tray containing bone fragments excavated from the Morgan Site, representing species like raccoons, turtles, black bear, and bobcat bones, but the majority belonged to white-tailed deer. (Contributed photo)

“When a hunter goes out far away, they’re generally not going to drag an entire carcass back home: they’ll butcher it in the field, remove the lower utility pieces, and bring back the higher yield parts. When you’re closer to home, you might be able to drag the whole carcass back and that seems to be the pattern that’s dominating this site. It doesn’t seem like they were really having to go too far away to hunt because of the high deer populations close to the site.”

Weitzel also found that the skeletons were primarily from adult animals, indicating low hunting pressure. He explains that when a species’ population starts to decline, hunters may start seeking out younger animals, however, Weitzel found no fawns and few yearlings represented at the site.

“I think the most surprising result was the size of the deer that I identified in this assemblage — these were big deer. Some of the antlers are on par with record-holding animals from today and I was able to calculate the estimated live weight of these deer. For example, in Connecticut today, deer pretty much don’t get larger than 200 pounds but the largest deer on this site was 265 pounds. The largest deer in Connecticut today is pretty much only the average deer from this site,” says Weitzel.

Deer body size is sensitive to food availability and indicates how productive the environment is. Weitzel thinks this makes the case that the productive environment supporting these deer populations was carefully managed by the Indigenous population through methods such as prescribed burns to promote a lush and sustainable landscape.

Weitzel notes the 95 to 99% mortality of deer is parallel to some of the higher estimates for what happened to the Native human population post-contact.

“I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I think that fundamentally the same processes are at work in both cases in a general ecological sense, not necessarily the epidemic disease part, but the fact that it is something new when you have Euro-American settlers colonizing the region and changing the ecology in various ways and it is impacting people, it is impacting animals, it is impacting plants. It’s impacting the entire ecosystem of eastern North America, in negative ways.”

These findings also challenge deeper assumptions about human nature. Weitzel points out that many believe that humans are inherently bad for the environment and separate from nature, yet there is ample evidence to suggest otherwise. Findings such as these can tell us a lot about ourselves as a species and our own economic systems and role in our ecosystem.

An excavated deer antler. The site was initially excavated in the 1980s, when this photo was taken. (Contributed photo)
A photo taken at the Morgan Site dig showing a deer antler. The site was initially excavated in the 1980s, when this photo was taken. (Contributed photo)

“To my mind, it’s not the existence of people that causes negative environmental impacts, it’s certain things that certain people do. We know that Indigenous people all over the world and throughout time have had positive impacts on the environment. One of my favorite examples is from western Australia where in the early 20th century, the Australian government removed Aboriginal Australians from their territories. There were extinctions and ecological collapse because they removed humans, an integral piece of an ecosystem, and once you remove them from that equation, the ecosystem suffered. Once Aboriginal peoples were allowed to return to their home territories, the ecosystem started to thrive and flourish again.”

Weitzel hopes this research can help inform wildlife managers and ecologists to understand the historical ecology of the species, and to establish baselines for sustainable management. Since there is so much that is still unknown, this work will help answer some of those questions, such as what were the exact causes and mechanisms for the high mortality rates in the white-tailed deer population? Weitzel is digging into this and other questions for the rest of his dissertation.

“Wildlife managers often struggle to figure out what the baseline should be that they’re trying to return to. Archaeological data contributes to that, but I also think this contributes to broader discussions about how humans interact with their environment, and that there are ways that we can manage environments sustainably and interact with resources sustainably. That seems to be what Native folks were doing and then there are ways that we can interact unsustainably and that seems to be what happened in the colonial period.”

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Clean Energy & Sustainability Innovation Program Submission Finalists https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/clean-energy-sustainability-innovation-program-submission-finalists/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/clean-energy-sustainability-innovation-program-submission-finalists/#respond Fri, 26 May 2023 09:15:26 +0000 Combined Reports https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199552 Project: Comparing GHG emissions between the UConn microgrid and the Eversource grid, load shaping and demand management
Students: Malachi Denton, Malik Francis, Kevon Rattigan-

Project: Social and technical remedies for sustainable UConn using renewable energy sources
Students: Hasan Nikkhah, Francesco Rouhana, Dev Barochia

Project: Transitioning short and long term plans using optimal installations to significantly increase power production.
Students: Austin Gelinas, Pranavi Rebala

Project: Thin film solar panels or solar shingles as an alternative for rooftop.
Students: Kevin Howson, Jacob Hyler, Julie Sandberg

Project: Developing an intelligent energy management system.
Students: Anietie Williams, Faith Wariri

Project: A Real-time Behind the Meter PV Generation Forecasting System.
Students: Kexin Song, Haoyi Wang, Paul Zambrzycki

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Veteran Keeps His Memorial Day Plans Thanks to UConn Health Heart Doctors https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/veteran-keeps-his-memorial-day-plans-thanks-to-uconn-health-heart-doctors/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/veteran-keeps-his-memorial-day-plans-thanks-to-uconn-health-heart-doctors/#respond Thu, 25 May 2023 18:17:54 +0000 Lauren Woods https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199511 On the last 45 Memorial Day holidays, Navy Veteran William “Bill” Rood, 83, of North Windham has done the pilgrimage to local Connecticut cemeteries to lay wreaths upon the graves of fallen military. He served the U.S. Navy from 1957-1961.

But planning for this Memorial Day included a health challenge. Rood wasn’t sure he’d be physically up to the pilgrimage, nor able to deliver an invited speech to his town on Memorial Day.

“I was coughing non-stop, and the cough wasn’t getting better, I was having difficulty breathing and walking, and I couldn’t sleep,” says Rood who even ended up in the Emergency Room in the middle of the night. “I was weak, I was sick, I couldn’t move, I was out of breath. I knew I was sick but didn’t realize how sick.”

It turns out the chronic cough that Rood couldn’t shake, along with the other debilitating symptoms, were caused by aortic stenosis, a narrowing of his heart’s aortic valve. It was even causing his heart to become enlarged with fluid building up in his lungs.

TAVR is a large clinical care team effort at UConn Health led by Dr. Chittoor B. Sai Sudhakar and Dr. JuYong Lee. Here during a TAVR procedure in UConn John Dempsey Hospital’s high-tech hybrid OR they are joined by Dr. Michael Azrin, director of interventional cardiology. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health photo).

“UConn Health really came through for me,” exclaims the Navy Veteran who on May 11 underwent a newly available procedure at UConn Health called TAVR (Transcatheter aortic valve replacement). “My heart doctors put this new valve in me – and it works! It actually works excellent! I’m now breathing much better and interestingly I actually watched my heart pumping my blood flawlessly through the new valve the next morning when they did an echocardiogram!”

“The less-invasive alternative to open-heart surgery called TAVR combines the surgical expertise of Dr. Chittoor B. Sai Sudhakar, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at UConn Health who has significant experience in the field of TAVR, and Dr. JuYong Lee, interventional cardiologist who serves as director of the structural heart program, director of vascular medicine, endovascular medicine, and the non-invasive vascular laboratory. The minimally invasive procedure offers patients prompt relief from their symptoms and return to their daily activities.

Narrowing of the aortic valve occurs as we age when calcium builds up around the valve’s opening restricting proper blood flow to the rest of the body. The common older adult heart condition affects more than 20% of those over the age of 65. If left untreated, aortic stenosis can lead to debilitating heart failure or even death. Warning signs may include fatigue; shortness of breath; chest pain; rapid fluttering heartbeat; trouble walking short distances; reduced routine activity level; fainting and lightheadedness.

“With a heart procedure, you are entrusting your life to these people. I felt quite confident with Dr. Lee and Dr. Sai,” he says. “I told my heart doctors if they did a good job, I would walkout out of the building and if they didn’t they would carry me out. I walked out and obviously Dr. Lee and Dr. Sai did a very good job and I am thankful!”

In addition to the excellent cardiac care outcome provided by Sudhakar and Lee, Rood also acknowledges the key role of nurse and program coordinator Kristen Bryant who always made sure he got all the care and information he needed. “Kristen is a real asset to UConn Health. She is excellent and gets an A+ from me.”

Interestingly, while Rood’s heart condition was fixed successfully by UConn Health, he actually previously fixed up the institution personally. “In UConn Health’s Main Building my steel working company and I put in all the designs and fabricated the catwalks in the penthouse,” proudly recalls Rood.

The day after his heart procedure, it was no longer “tough” to walk a short distance. Rood was walking to his backyard and caring for his three hives of honeybees. Also, a week after surgery Rood, the longtime business owner of the steel working company Windham Industries Inc. in North Windham now run by his son, was back in his office working on the computer and looking over the company’s steel, metal product designs.

Bill Rood
Bill Rood had a successful TAVR heart procedure at UConn Health on May 11 to minimally-invasively fix his heart’s aortic stenosis and rapidly relieve him of the condition’s debilitating symptoms. (Photo courtesy of the Rood Family).

“UConn Health has been so good to me! They have gone out of their way to help me – and with very good results! The TAVR procedure was far superior to open-heart surgery to repair my heart. If you look at me, you would never know that I had a lifesaving valve replacement only days ago. The only visual symptom is a black and blue area next to one of the incision sites. Medicine today is unbelievable,” says Rood.

His strong message to others struggling with ongoing symptoms: “If you have a cough that is not going away, get checked. Don’t tough it out. And make sure you have a good primary care doctor. They are invaluable,” says Rood whose UConn Health Storrs primary care physician, Matt Sleboda, stepped in and got him connected to the heart doctors at UConn Health’s Calhoun Cardiology Center for follow-up care. “UConn Health got me in right away!”

Thanks to his successful heart repair at UConn Health, Memorial Day 2023 will be extra special for Rood. He spent the week following his heart procedure working on his Memorial Day speech for his town. He is so grateful to have the opportunity to deliver his speech on May 29 after laying wreaths, and not being out of breath, as Memorial Day means a great deal to him as a veteran.

“It is to pay homage to the people who served our country. We are an incredible country. For over 200 years we have been a beacon to the world. We are a nation of immigrants. They came to this country for freedom,” he says.

“I tell people I joined the Navy because they wore the white hats, they are the good guys,” says Rood with a smile who served as a Navy electronics technician. “I saw a lot of water in the Navy. I really enjoyed my military service. I had a lot of good friends who served their country including one who was a P.O.W. We need to remember our prisoners of war. I had uncles on both sides of my family who served in WWII. I joined the Navy because I believed that it was my duty to serve and protect my country.”

Rood stresses: “We owe a lot to the Veterans who came before us. I admire them and those who stand up. We need to respect all that they did.”

He says his speech on Memorial Day will be a “battle cry” for all fellow Veterans to “stand up and be counted.”

UConn Health is happy that Rood could count on us for his heart care.

UConn Health thanks U.S. Veterans for their military service to our country.

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Dr. Neha Prakash Named ‘Outstanding Young Physician’ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/dr-neha-prakash-named-outstanding-young-physician/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/dr-neha-prakash-named-outstanding-young-physician/#respond Thu, 25 May 2023 16:23:14 +0000 Christopher DeFrancesco '95 (CLAS) https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199491 Dr. Neha Prakash’s work in developing a normal pressure hydrocephalus program within UConn Health’s Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center has earned her recognition from the Connecticut chapter of the Association of Physicians of Indian Origin.

The Connecticut Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (CAPI) presented Prakash with its Outstanding Young Physician Award at its annual meeting May 20.

Dr. Prakash receives plaque
Dr. Neha Prakash, UConn Health neurologist, accepts the Outstanding Young Physician Award from the Connecticut Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, presented by Dr. Sekhar Chirunomula, chair of the awards committee. (Photo provided by Neha Prakash)

“Dr. Prakash’s recognition through the outstanding young physician award is a tribute to her persistent dedication to clinical excellence and her constantly striving to improve the care of her patients,” says Dr. Ketan Bulsara, chief of UConn Health’s Division of Neurosurgery. “Her work in the movement disorder center and her establishment of the Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus Center are just two examples of her countless contributions that continue to optimize care of all patients.”

Normal pressure hydrocephalus, or NPH, is a progressive neurological condition with symptoms that can mimic Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. It requires specialized expertise to diagnose and treat.

“Working with a team of neurosurgeons, physical therapists, neuropsychologists, urologists and others, Dr. Prakash has helped many obtain a surgical treatment that dramatically improves function and quality of life,” says Dr. L. John Greenfield, UConn Health’s Neurology chair. “She has also led the quality improvement program for our neurology residents, teaching them how to identify problems and create solutions that improve patient care.  This award recognizes her outstanding dedication to patient care and medical education.”

Prakash says she’s honored and humbled by the recognition.

“They say, ‘It takes a village to raise a physician and provide exceptional patient care,’” she says. “I am grateful to my family and mentors, who have guided me throughout my medical training and whose collective efforts have shaped my clinical and research career trajectory. I especially thank Drs. Bulsara and Greenfield for their unwavering support in building our patients’ state-of-the-art normal pressure hydrocephalus clinic. I want to highlight the effort of each of my colleagues, who make providing exceptional care easier.

“I commend the invaluable contributions of CAPI in our region, as they champion the advancement of community health, foster professional growth, and promote cultural diversity, all of which enrich the medical community and the lives of the people we serve.”

Learn more about UConn Health’s Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center.

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Breastfeeding Support Group is the Key for Moms in Overcoming Breastfeeding Obstacles https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/breastfeeding-support-group-is-the-key-for-moms-to-overcoming-breastfeeding-obstacles/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/breastfeeding-support-group-is-the-key-for-moms-to-overcoming-breastfeeding-obstacles/#respond Thu, 25 May 2023 15:24:06 +0000 Jennifer Walker https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199498 You may have heard people describe breastfeeding as one of the most natural things in the world. It is certainly true that women have been breastfeeding their babies since the beginning of time, and research shows the positive benefits of breast milk, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy.

The truth is that almost everyone struggles in the early days. Maybe in different ways. Some may have issues with getting a deep latch. Some may struggle with the intensity of their baby’s needs. Some may struggle with a sick baby, birth complications, or a baby who isn’t latching at all.

UConn Health is proud to offer around-the-clock breastfeeding support with a full-time internationally board-certified lactation consultant, Marisa Merlo, who offers support to families and babies learning how to breastfeed. Nurses trained in lactation support and certified as lactation counselors who are dedicated to helping mothers reach their breastfeeding goals are also available to patients.

Merlo works with parents and their individual breastfeeding goals. “It’s not always all or nothing,” says Merlo. “Every family has their specific situation to make breastfeeding work for them and I’m there to assist in helping reach their goals.”

Kai is satisfied after a feeding during the breastfeeding support group. (Photo: Jennifer Walker, UConn Health)

Cassandra Collier had a beautiful baby boy, Kai, her second son, her first is a teenager now. Exhausted from lack of sleep and the pain she was experiencing from healing; she was struggling with breastfeeding.

Collier had met Merlo at a prenatal visit and called to see if the breastfeeding support group held at UConn Health was happening that day and when she found out it was, she showed up in tears, feeling broken and left with new hope and support.

Dana Helak didn’t know a lot about breastfeeding and wasn’t feeling strongly about it when she gave birth to her daughter, Audrey four months ago. When Audrey was placed on her chest and latched on right away, Helak was inspired to breastfeed.

“I hadn’t researched it and had no supplies, I was clueless,” says Helak. “I had the flyer Marisa had given me for the support group and I was counting down the days until the first meeting.”

Like most mothers, Helak wasn’t prepared for how hard it was going to be. “If it wasn’t for Marisa, I would have quit,” says Helak.

Helak wants other mothers to know that it is not always easy, but help is out there. Merlo taught her how to syringe feed and supplement, and that it doesn’t have to be all or none when it comes to breast milk and formula.

Audrey plays on the floor during the breastfeeding support group. (Photo Credit: Jennifer Walker)

Audrey soon started gaining weight and is now exclusively on breast milk. So, when she saw Collier in tears at the support group, she knew exactly how she was feeling and wanted to help.

“It was de ja vu when I saw Cassandra so upset at the support group because when I first went to group feeling the same way and there was another mom there with a four-month-old who connected with me, helping me get through,” says Helak. “Now I was there with Audrey who is four months old, and I can help Cassandra the same way and show her that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

“I told Cassandra, ‘I know where you what can I do to help?’” says Helak.

“Dana was there with Audrey and she told me how she had struggled too and it gave me back my hope,” says Collier.

The following day Collier spent time with Helak at her home. They had the same breast pump and Helak showed Collier how to put it together and use it. Helak was also able to give her the formula that Audrey no longer used so Collier could use it to supplement Kai.

“The ready-to-feed formula is so hard to find and I’m so happy it didn’t go to waste and Cassandra can use it to help her feedings for Kai,” says Helak.

Collier didn’t end up giving up, with the support she received from meeting Helak and Merlo. While Kai still is struggling with latching, she doesn’t feel as bad because her pumping is getting better, and he is growing.

“This group changed my life,” says Collier.

“The breastfeeding support group is such a great way to get out with your baby in the early days knowing it is a safe space and provides a social component to new moms,” says Helak. “It was so nice to make the connection with Cassandra and support her.”

“It takes a village, and support is one of the biggest determinants for moms meeting their breastfeeding goals, which is why our services are so important,” says Merlo.

Both moms now regularly attend the breastfeeding support group UConn Health offers for breastfeeding moms and their babies who are looking for additional breastfeeding assistance and a community support network. The group is an informal drop-in support group facilitated by Merlo, our certified lactation consultant.

Merlo weighs the babies before they feed and that after so that moms know how much breastmilk their babies are getting and it helps the moms to know how much milk they are producing and the baby is taking in so they can plan their feeding accordingly.

The group meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 1 to 3 p.m. at UConn Health for their patients.

UConn Health is proud to offer around-the-clock breastfeeding support. We have a full-time, internationally board-certified lactation consultant on staff, as well as nurses trained in lactation support and certified as lactation counselors who are dedicated to helping mothers reach their breastfeeding goals.

UConn Health offers support at every stage of your parenting journey with prenatal education including lactation consults and breastfeeding classes before your stay. During your say, lactation consults are available on-site as well as supplemental support from our nurses who are Certified Lactation Counselors.

“We hope more patients take advantage of the support group to connect with other moms and get the support they need as that is the biggest hurdle to breastfeeding,” says Merlo.

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Spotlight on Services: Clinical Research Center https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/spotlight-on-services-clinical-research-center/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/spotlight-on-services-clinical-research-center/#respond Thu, 25 May 2023 12:51:12 +0000 Christopher DeFrancesco '95 (CLAS) https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199473 More than 70 clinical trials are open and active in UConn Health’s Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. Clinical Research Center (CRC), which recently celebrated the origins of clinical trials.

May 20 is generally accepted within the scientific research community as Clinical Trials Day.

“The CRC provides support across the full spectrum of patient-oriented research and is the cornerstone of clinical research at UConn Health,” says research nurse Catherine Jahne, “Our staff can provide investigators with the resources they need and help make it easier to get and stay engaged in research. Our primary mission is to support UConn Health faculty conducting research that supports the National Institutes of Health.”

portrait in front of poster
Megyn Clement is a clinical research assistant in the Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. Clinical Research Center at UConn Health. (Photo provided by Catherine Jahne)

One of several departments conducting human-subject research at UConn Health, the CRC is a dedicated space for this purpose, in the main lobby of the Connecticut Tower. It has 19 employees.

“The CRC has been a valuable resource for School of Medicine and School of Dental Medicine faculty conducting clinical research since 1994,” says Dr. Victor Hesselbrock, the CRC’s interim director, who’s been involved from Day 1. “In addition to providing highly trained staff, exam rooms, clinical laboratory assays and administrative support for clinical research at UConn Health, it has also provided a variety of education and training programs (including the Masters Degree in Clinical and Translational Research) for students, staff and faculty over the years. More recently the CRC supported a number of industry and federally funded clinical trials related to mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Clinical Trials Day recognizes the start of what’s largely considered the first randomized clinical trial, dating back to before the American Revolution.

The CRC also has an academic component, offering monthly seminars for faculty, staff, residents, and students interested in clinical research.

“Many research topics have been presented in areas such as outcomes research, statistics, and training, as well as research techniques in molecular biology, exercise physiology, pediatric AIDS, cardiology, cancer, and dentistry,” says Elizabeth Laska, CRC nurse manager. “The CRC Seminar Series is an approved Continuing Medical Education (CME) activity.”

The number of active clinical trials changes monthly as studies close and new ones open. See CRC’s current research listing.

There’s also a searchable page to find information about other research studies at UConn Health.

As for that very first clinical trial, that’s credited to James Lind, a Scottish physician who, as a ship’s surgeon in the British Royal Navy, on May 20, 1747, randomized sailors into groups in an effort to compare the effects of different treatments of scurvy. Lind published his findings in 1753.

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UConn Geography Researcher Receives Funds to Study Cancer Disparities Among U.S. African Americans https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/uconn-geography-researcher-receives-funds-to-study-cancer-disparities/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/uconn-geography-researcher-receives-funds-to-study-cancer-disparities/#respond Thu, 25 May 2023 11:30:14 +0000 Danielle Faipler https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199350 In January of this year, Debarchana (Debs) Ghosh, associate professor in the Department of Geography in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and principal investigator at UConn’s Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP), received a grant through the American Cancer Society to study multi-level drivers of cancer disparities impacting African Americans.

This study will build upon previous studies conducted by Ghosh and her collaborators that have explored the ways social inequality contribute to unequal cancer control outcomes.

The 4-year study will draw upon a nationally representative sample of African American adult individuals and data from other national databases such as the U.S. Decennial Census, American Community Survey (ACS), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). This large quantitative population-level database will be placed in conversation with qualitative data from interviews with community members, leaders, and stakeholders to explore how psychosocial factors such as stress, social support, or neighborhood characteristics influence health and the prevalence of cancer among African Americans. The qualitative phases of the study will be conducted in four focal states, Connecticut, Maryland, Alabama, and Missouri. Conclusions from the study will be used to make recommendations informing public health policy, practice, and interventions to improve the health of African Americans.

Image of Debarchana Ghosh, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Debarchana Ghosh, associate professor in the Department of Geography in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. (contributed photo)

“This current collaborative project takes into account the structural determinants of health, which have a strong interplay with social determinants of health at the individual level. There has been a strong call in research communities studying health disparities to show directly how structural policies, like redlining, housing discrimination, and concentrated poverty have impacted health disparities among African American communities,” says Ghosh, who mainly studies health disparities among vulnerable populations, both in terms of health outcomes and in access to health care.

Ghosh is working with Cheryl Knott, professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health and Co-Leader of the Population Science Program and Associate Director of Community Outreach and Engagement at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center; Eddie Clark, professor of psychology at St. Louis University; Kathleen Hoke, professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law; Beverly Williams, professor of sociology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Crystal Park, UConn professor of psychological sciences in CLAS and chair of InCHIP’s Cancer Research Interest Group, is also involved in the study.

The study has three phases. In Phase 1, the team will use a community-engaged approach, working with key community stakeholders in the four focal sites, using their input to refine and prioritize the proposed analytic models. In Phase 2, the refined analytical models will be built and interpreted. In Phase 3, the team will again engage community stakeholders to co-create and disseminate recommendations for cancer control activities based on study findings. The study will distribute recommendations for policy, practice, and research to lay and scientific audiences through multiple channels.

“I am excited about the community-engaged phases of the study, where I will listen and learn from the lived experiences of the communities of color in the Greater Hartford Area in Connecticut on how policies, social support, and neighborhood contributes to the health of the residents” says Ghosh. “As our state is witnessing a rise in the number of people of color, this study will be impactful by engaging the communities in need, working together, to mitigate social injustices, discrimination, and reduce the gap of racial health disparities.”

The study is driven in part by disparities highlighted by the novel COVID-19 pandemic which rampaged through under-resourced communities lacking basic health care infrastructure. Black communities in the U.S. were disparately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during the early months of the pandemic. According to data from April 2020 to October 2020, Black Americans faced a mortality rate of approximately 83.6 per 100,000. For comparison, Latinos experienced a mortality rate of about 50.7 per 100,00 and White Americans and Asian Americans experienced a mortality rate of about 40 per 100,000.

“The pandemic brought out more of the disparities occurring among African Americans and in other communities. These communities are not more genetically prone to disease, but COVID-19 opened the wound more crudely to show the gap of health disparities,” says Ghosh. “My goal for this project is to use science and show results sharply and directly to develop a policy framework that aims to mitigate and reduce these disparities.”

According to data from the American Cancer Society, African Americans have a higher cancer burden and face greater obstacles to cancer prevention, detection and treatment, and survival. African Americans are less likely to survive a cancer diagnosis compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Despite having a lower incidence of breast cancer, Black women are 41% more likely to die from the disease than their white counterparts.

While a significant proportion of cancer is preventable, external factors can influence cancer disparities, such as structural racism, which refers to discrimination at the institutional level that facilitated segregation, inhibited the accumulation of wealth, and limited access to quality education, housing, health care, and work.

Although those policies are no longer legal, the effects still manifest today. Areas affected by historical redlining, lending bias, and disinvestment often have a higher population of African Americans and lack amenities including access to public transportation, green spaces, and healthy food. These environments typically increase the prevalence of chronic stress and disease, resulting in poorer health outcomes overall.

“I don’t want to stop at showing the current state of affairs. We know that it’s not good, so I’m focused on showing what we can do to close the gap in these disparities,” said Ghosh.

Ghosh joined UConn in 2011 and began working with InCHIP that same year. Ghosh learned about InCHIP through her mentor, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor in Statistics and InCHIP PI Dipak Dey.

Through InCHIP, Ghosh began collaborating with Park. They have worked on studies evaluating the nexus of health behaviors and geographical location among African Americans. The researchers found that while social determinants influence health, there are macro-level conditions like policy and location that intertwine with individual behavior to impact health.

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Data Shows UConn Alums Rank Among High Earners in Accounting, Finance, Law https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/data-shows-uconn-alums-rank-among-high-earners-in-accounting-finance-law/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/data-shows-uconn-alums-rank-among-high-earners-in-accounting-finance-law/#respond Thu, 25 May 2023 11:15:27 +0000 Stephanie Reitz https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199486 UConn is among the top 20 public universities nationwide in which alumni who built careers in accounting, finance, and law earn more than peers who graduated from other institutions, according to data compiled by an organization that researches employment trends.

The data, which was reported recently in The Wall Street Journal, showed that after 10 years in their fields, UConn bachelor’s degree alumni who work in accounting have the 8th highest average salaries among peers from other public institutions; the 13th highest in law; and the 16th highest in finance.

The findings echo similar research from other sources that indicate a UConn education provides stronger returns on investment than many of its peers, and that the University prepares its students well for long-term professional and financial success.

The WSJ’s reporting was based on findings by Burning Glass, a nonprofit organization that analyzed data about experience and salaries from Lightcast, a labor-market data firm, and Glassdoor, a website used by employees to rate their companies and obtain salary estimates in their fields.

The WSJ described the rankings as a method to quantify the difference that the choice of an undergraduate school makes on future salaries, among all graduates with the same number of years in the specific field.

The data evaluated 2,025 colleges and universities, with an emphasis on business education, data science, and engineering. Public and private institutions were ranked separately so the colleges and universities could best be compared against peer schools.

The WSJ said that for each college, Burning Glass calculated the annual salary premium using the difference between the earnings of the school’s graduates in their first 10 years after graduation and the median graduate in the field.

For UConn-educated professionals working in accounting, the average salary in the decade after graduation was $75,053, the eighth highest. That represented a $7,336 premium over the median.

For those in finance, the average was $103,476, ranking as 16th highest and including a premium of $6,725 over the median.

“This data underscores the fact that a UConn business education offers a tremendous return on investment,” says UConn School of Business Dean John A. Elliott.

“Although there are many markers of a successful career, certainly the ability to command a strong salary is a universal recognition of achievement,” he adds. “Our alumni’s success reflects the quality and ambition of our students, the expertise of our faculty, and the advice and mentorship of our advisers and corporate partners.’’

In assessing the salary success of people working in legal fields, the data looked specifically at colleges and universities that the people attended as undergraduates, regardless of where they later earned their law degree.

UConn bachelor’s degree holders who later built careers in law earned an average of $118,219 at the 10-year mark after graduating, the 13th highest ranking. That represented a premium of $5,188 over the median public university graduate in the field.

The ranking is an honor both for UConn overall for the strength of its undergraduate education and for its School of Law, where many undergraduates take classes and also later enroll for their Juris doctor (JD), Master of Laws (LLM), and Doctor of the Science of Laws (SJD) degrees, and/or certificate and professional programs.

“UConn does a terrific job of preparing undergraduate students for law school, and those students comprise more than 20 percent of our classes at UConn Law. Our outstanding academic and experiential programs prepare them to pass the bar exam and pursue successful and meaningful careers,” says UConn School of Law Dean Eboni S. Nelson.

“We are extremely proud of their professional accomplishments, impressed by their many contributions to their communities, and grateful for their commitment to advancing justice, equity, and the rule of law,” she says.

The career success that UConn alumni are experiencing in accounting, finance, and law is also reflected in other fields, with starting salaries across the board immediately after graduating averaging more than $1,000 above the national average.

The financial and personal satisfaction also continues over time: The recent National Alumni Career Mobility survey of the UConn Class of 2011 found that 10 years after graduating, their overall career satisfaction was 10% higher than that of alumni from peer institutions.

Those alumni also either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “I am satisfied with my career progression,” at a 10% higher rate than all institutions across the country.

And when asked if their current income was higher than the household in which they grew up, respondents agreed or strongly agreed at a rate that was 9 percentage points higher than the national average.

“These results clearly indicate the lasting value of a UConn degree and the importance our alumni place on the education they received during their undergraduate experience,” says Jim Lowe, assistant vice provost and executive director of the UConn Center for Career Development, which analyzes and reports the data.

With 69% of working UConn alumni remaining in the state after graduation, these outcomes take on even more importance for the State of Connecticut and its goals to foster home-grown economic development and innovation.

“As UConn continues to be a significant driver of the economic engine of Connecticut, our alumni have demonstrated the overall power that they bring to the state’s labor market and overall economy,” Lowe says.

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Doctor of Physical Therapy Students Receive White Coats as Alums Celebrate 50th Reunion https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/doctor-of-physical-therapy-students-receive-white-coats-as-alums-celebrate-50th-reunion/ https://today.uconn.edu/2023/05/doctor-of-physical-therapy-students-receive-white-coats-as-alums-celebrate-50th-reunion/#respond Wed, 24 May 2023 12:14:01 +0000 Jessica McBride, PhD https://today.uconn.edu/?p=199328 On Saturday May 13, 2023, 28 students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program received their white coats in the Student Union Theater.

The program, which is housed in one of the nation’s top ranked departments of kinesiology in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, was founded in 1956 and is one of the oldest continuously operated programs in the country.

The White Coat Ceremony represents the end of students’ classroom experience as they start their clinical practice. Students received their white coats from the faculty members with whom they have worked closely over the past two years. This is also the last time the cohort will be together until graduation as they will be sent throughout the country for clinical rotations.

This year also marked the 50th reunion for the class of 1973.

Each white coat contained a card with a message of advice and congratulations from an alum of the program, a testament to the importance of the program’s network during and beyond the students’ academic experience.

“That was a really nice way to integrate our reunion class and our white coat class,” says Maryclaire Capetta, interim program director and assistant professor-in-residence of kinesiology.

The event honored Chuck Cota ‘73 with the Joseph Smey Excellence in Physical Therapy Alumni Award. Smey was the director of the physical therapy program and dean of the now defunct School of Allied Health at UConn. Smey, now retired, was in attendance at this year’s ceremony. The Class of ‘73 was the first class Smey taught.

Cota was nominated by his coworkers at Yale New Haven Hospital, Diana Carrano, a fellow ‘73 alum, and Roland Perrault ’82, ’89, who is also the president of the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources Alumni (UCAHNRA) Board.

Cota worked at Yale New Haven for 48 years before retiring in 2021. He was a physical therapist and later manager of rehabilitation services. During his career, Cota was instrumental in developing four physical therapy departments at the hospital’s St. Raphael and Milford campuses.

“It was really a big honor for me,” Cota says. “I’ve always felt very close with UConn and the staff here. I also know many of the past recipients and to be mentioned alongside them is really quite an honor.”

After the presentation of the Smey award, there were two speeches by student-selected speakers: Assistant Professor Sudha Srinivasan and Joe Podurgiel, a student from this year’s white coat class.

Following the ceremony, students, alumni, faculty, and families attended a reception on the Student Union terrace.

“It’s a great opportunity for interaction between our current students and our alumni. It really shows the longevity and the impact of our program,” Capetta says.

The Class of ‘73 alumni then toured the UConn campus and the new Human Anatomy Learning Lab (HALL) in the Department of Kinesiology before their reunion reception.

Cota gave the white coat students some words of wisdom from the other side.

“Stay in contact with the school and your fellow classmates,” Cota says. “I think that’s really important because it’ll enrich your career and it’s good to stay in touch with people.”


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