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Pro cyclist forges new path after traumatic brain injury

Lauren De Crescenzo national champion

At a road cycling race three years ago in Los Angeles, Lauren De Crescenzo’s life changed forever. The pro cyclist was leading a teammate in a down-the-stretch sprint when she flipped over her handlebars at the finish line, landed on her head and suffered a traumatic brain injury.

De Crescenzo was airlifted to a hospital, where the doctors induced a coma for six days. She was then transferred to Craig Hospital in Englewood and she spent five weeks there. When she woke up in the hospital, she had no memory of her fall; her dad had to explain to her what happened. Her spinal injury, it turned out, was just millimeters from leaving her with paralyzed legs.

To say De Crescenzo is determined would be an understatement.

She started studying for the GRE while in the hospital; she just wanted to focus on anything that wasn’t her injury. She enrolled at the Colorado School of Public Health in fall 2017 and graduated last week at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus with a Master of Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology. She had an interest in public health before her accident, minoring in global health during her time as an undergraduate at Emory University.

Lauren De Crescenzo at graduation
Lauren De Crescenzo celebrates receiving her master’s degree from the Colorado School of Public Health at commencement on May 23.

Just this month, De Crescenzo won the USA Collegiate National Time Trial Championship in Georgia.

Asked how long it took to get back on a bike, De Crescenzo said, “Not as long as my parents hoped. I tried to quit, and it lasted about three weeks.” She didn’t want to look at a bike at the rehab center, but a friend, Timmy Duggan, slowly convinced her to get back on a bike.

Duggan, a racer who also suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 2009, was her inspiration for her epic comeback. In 2012, he went to the Olympics.

“I’m not ruling it out,” says De Crescenzo, said of her own Olympic aspirations.

Another long-term goal is to be an injury epidemiologist, and she is well on her way. She wants to work in traumatic brain injury prevention as well as possibly conduct research into helmet safety.

Severe depression became a very real consequence of her injury.

“Any big physical trauma comes with mental trauma. That was a big part for me,” she said. “There needs to be an even bigger focus on the emotional, cognitive side effects.”

Going back to school helped her tremendously. Her self-identity changed; before her accident, she thought of herself just as a pro cyclist. Going to school helped her redefine her life and focus her energy on her studies. Her master’s capstone looked at a disease classification manual and how it recorded TBI-related ER visits and hospitalizations.

Her injury put everything into perspective. “Compared to the emotional pain of almost losing everything, physical pain almost doesn’t have an effect on me. The physical pain is temporary and doesn’t seem so bad anymore.” In talking with Duggan she had someone to relate to and didn’t feel so alone. “I wish there was a way for every healthcare professional and researcher to talk to someone who has gone through it because it’s hard to understand the emotional turmoil that it puts you through.”

When asked what she would like to tell someone who has also suffered a TBI, De Crescenzo said, “Never give up. It’s going to get better, and don’t be afraid to get help if you need it.”

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Dermatology students improve Wikipedia entries on skin disease

A group of medical students recruited to improve Wikipedia articles on skin-related diseases, saw millions more views of those stories following their editing, highlighting the value of expert input on the popular web encyclopedia.

“We tried to make the articles more readable, while adding more relevant information,” said Olivia Hutton, BS, a medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine who led the project. “The articles we edited have been viewed 10 million times since adding the new information.”

Robert Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH, professor of dermatology at the CU School of Medicine
Robert Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH, professor of dermatology at the CU School of Medicine

The research letter was published online March 28 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Medical stories on Wikipedia receive 10 million views daily and the top 500 skin-related articles saw over 16 million views during August 2018 alone.

But in an effort to make those articles more complete and accurate, an editing partnership was set up between the evidence-based medicine organization Cochrane and Wikipedia in 2014. Cochrane Review Groups work with Wikipedia to recruit and train editors to share high-quality Cochrane Review evidence in Wikipedia stories.

In this case, five students were trained to beef up the articles on skin-diseases. They learned Wikipedia editing, were mentored by an experienced Wikipedia medical editor and were given a list of articles to improve.

The project was supervised by Robert Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH, professor of dermatology at the CU School of Medicine. According to Hutton, the trainees improved 40 skin-specific articles on Wikipedia. They did this by adding paraphrased conclusions and background information from 60 Cochrane Reviews.

The 40 edited stories won millions more views. The top five most viewed articles dealt with psoriasis, leprosy, cellulitis, melanoma and molluscum contagiosum.

“Criticisms of Wikipedia include concerns over the quality of shared content,” Hutton said. “It is important to ensure that Wikipedia’s content is evidence-based, unbiased and up-to-date. We have shown that a small Wikipedia editing initiative has the potential to share evidence-based information with many people.”

Dellavalle, who is also a joint-coordinating editor of Cochrane Skin, said the students’ work with Wikipedia in this regard “is the most expansive provision of public health dermatology information in the world.”

The next step, he said, is to recruit more trainees, improve skin-related Wikipedia content in other languages and make further improvements in articles to increase accuracy and understandability.

The article co-authors include Jennifer E. Dawson, PhD; Kachiu C. Lee, MPH; Peter R. Shumaker, MD; Elizabeth Doney, MSc; Robert P. Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH.

 

 

 

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A passion for improving cancer detection

A first-generation college student who lost her grandmother to ovarian cancer, Jazmyn Mosqueda aspires to become a cancer researcher. She took a big step in that direction this summer as one of 37 applicants chosen for the prestigious Cancer Research Summer Fellowship (CRSF) program through the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

Founded in 1987, the CRSF program pairs young scientists with more than 50 faculty preceptors at the CU Anschutz and CU Boulder campuses, as well as National Jewish Health and the Veteran Affairs Medical Center. Fellows are chosen through stringent selection by a panel of 18 faculty members. For 2018, only 37 fellows were chosen out of 221 applications, a success rate of only 17 percent. When it comes to choosing fellows, Jill Penafiel, education manager, cautioned that good grades alone won’t make the cut. She elaborated that work ethic, character references, and passion for cancer research are key for successful applications.

Within the first week, fellows attend orientation and submit written project goals. The remainder of the 10-week fellowship is devoted to research, with weekly events and faculty lectures including different cancer sites and personalized medicine.

For her research project, Mosqueda worked under the mentorship of Matthew Sikora, PhD, in the Department of Pathology. The Sikora lab studies lobular breast cancer, a relatively rare type of the disease. “Lobular breast cancer has good biomarkers but generally poor outcomes — this research may improve treatment options for lobular breast cancer patients,” said Mosqueda, a senior majoring in biology and Spanish at the University of Northern Colorado.

Matthew Sikora and Jazmyn Mosqueda evaluate data
Matthew Sikora, PhD, assistant professor in pathology, looks on as Cancer Research Summer Fellow Jazmyn Mosqueda evaluates her data.

Invigorates project

Sikora said the Cancer Research Summer Fellows infuse additional energy into the research taking place on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. “It has been great having Jazmyn in the lab,” he said. “I love getting young scientists excited about research. It helps us, too, since the energy and new questions that undergraduates bring can really invigorate a project.”

Mosqueda’s summer research has centered on understanding new roles for a protein called int/Wingless 4 (Wnt4) that enables breast cancer cell growth and survival. Although she expressed that research in general is hard, Mosqueda focused instead on the satisfaction that comes the first time an experiment is successful. Having lost her paternal grandmother to ovarian cancer before she was born, Mosqueda said her family history inspired a passion for improving early cancer detection. She hopes to attend graduate school in cancer biology after she graduates in May.

As a first-generation college student, Mosqueda talked about her project with her family, which has improved her science communication skills. “I think it’s important to be able to explain to someone who doesn’t have a scientific background or isn’t educated in the hard sciences, because that’s ideally what physicians should be able to do for their patients,” noted Mosqueda. As the first time away from her native Greeley, Mosqueda continued, “I think my family is proud. But my mom misses me.”

Stepping stone

Mosqueda feels that the summer fellowship makes her a more competitive candidate when applying to grad school. Penafiel echoes this sentiment and said, “The fellowship is a great stepping stone for aspiring medical students or grad students.” Penafiel expressed the gratification that she gets from the success stories, adding, “It’s wonderful to see students go on to do great things.”

Mosqueda added, “I’m grateful and thankful for the opportunity to experience something like this.”

The nationwide fellowship program ended in early August with a public poster session where many fellows’ families were in attendance. The CRSF program is managed by John Tentler, PhD, associate director for education, and Jill Penafiel.

Guest Contributor: Shawna Matthews, a postdoc at CU Anschutz.

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skaggs pharmacy graduate

Growing up with a pharmacist for a grandfather, Megan Wary always knew she wanted to work in the medical field. So, after earning her undergraduate degree at the University of Arkansas, she had a crucial decision to make: Where would she call home for the next four years and continue her education?

Ultimately, the pull of Colorado’s outdoors coupled with the high reputation of the pharmacy school and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus attracted Wary to the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Today, Wary will join her fellow graduates in the 2018 Spring Commencement Ceremonies. Looking back, she said she’s glad she chose the top-ranked veteran-friendly university and the outdoor-oriented state, both of which helped shape Wary’s future.

Ticket to outdoor paradise

Wary enjoyed spending her spare time at Breckenridge snowboarding with classmates.

“I knew I was ready to move out of Arkansas,” Wary said. “I wanted to be able to hike and snowboard, to spend time in the sunshine.
There’s no better place.”

In between studying for her challenging courses, Wary enjoyed all that Colorado has to offer, especially hiking fourteeners and snowboarding Peak 6 at Breckenridge.

“There is such a special vibe about Coloradans,” she said of meeting new friends. “Everyone that moves here has something in common, whether it be hitting the trails or the slopes.”

Overcoming injury

While taking full advantage of Colorado’s outdoor sports and recreation two years ago, Wary slipped during a kickball match and tore her ACL.

She didn’t let her serious injury hold her back. One year after the tear, Wary participated in a “Tough Mudder,” a grueling race that involved trudging through thick mud while tackling a challenging obstacle course.

“This was something that I was really proud of,” she said. “If soldiers can recover from traumatic injuries and live their everyday lives, then I can heal from this ACL injury and finish this race.”

The symbolic victory highlights Wary’s passion for working with veterans.

Service through pharmacy

“It has always been a sweet spot for me,” she said. “I have a lot of family members in different military branches. I just really love working with that population. I know that I want to be with these people and serve them as they have served us.”

Faced with leaving Colorado, she will miss the great outdoors and the people she’s met along her journey, said Wary, who intends to complete a pharmacy residency with the Veterans Administration, her top choice.

“It’s going to be tough to leave this wonderful place,” she said. “But, I know that my education and training will help me achieve my goals in the years to come,” said Wary, who advises incoming pharmacy students to keep their studies first. “But, enjoy Colorado. Denver and the surrounding areas have so much to offer. Keep the faith. You will make it.”

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Rapping his way through the Curriculum

Lee Amaya, stage name SouLeePharmD, is our very own rapping pharmacist.

Amaya fell in love with rap music and poetry during high school. “I became infatuated with the flow and rhyme schemes of songs while listening to my favorite artists. The raw passion displayed and the topics they rapped about resonated with me,” says Amaya.

Inspired, he began writing and producing his own rap music that he shared over the Internet. “Rap provided me with an outlet to voice my grief and frustrations with the world. Being a science nerd, this allowed me to express a side of me that I rarely revealed.”

One of his first live performances was in front of his entire high school.  “No pressure there!” says Amaya.

The performance was part of a Senior Project that was required to graduate from the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Consisting of an internship, mentorship, faculty-run seminar or independent project of the student’s design, the project is quite the undertaking. Instead of the usual fare, Amaya asked if he could compose a rap album and the school agreed — of course with the oversight of his honors English teacher. Most would choose creating and producing one song in five weeks, but Amaya chose an album!  Then, he selected one song to perform at a school-wide assembly. That project solidified his interest in the art form and he’s been writing, performing and producing ever since.

“Because my time was extremely limited during pharmacy school, I didn’t have a lot of time to be creative and write raps during the program,” says Amaya. He did, however, write and record one rap during his fourth year for a reflection project.  The song, which highlights his experiences as a pharmacy student, is the basis for a music video that is currently in development at the school.

Future goals for Amaya include creating educational raps about pharmacy-related topics in a similar fashion to ZDoggMD, who raps about medical issues and conditions and releases them to the public through social media.

“I would love nothing more than to be able to combine my musical talents with my pharmacy knowledge by writing songs about various healthcare topics to educate those who learn in an auditory manner,” says Amaya.

In the meantime, Amaya has lined up a PGY-1 residency at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, which is sure to consume a lot of his time. ”Once I’m finished with residency and have more free time on my hands, I will definitely try to become the rapping pharmacist!”

Mic drop.

Reflections of  a P-4

Verse 1:

Let’s take a trip down memory lane

To recognize the school that left me better than I came

Now professionalism is steady flowing through the veins

And infected with wisdom to analyze gram stains

 

At the University of Colorado

Leadership in pharmacy has always been the motto

Faculty members have set examples we can follow

Phi Delta Chi Sigma Brothers yelling “bravo!”

 

Now looking back to first year

I get real sense of what I learned here

Communication skills, how to make the pills

And a genuine devotion to reshape the field

 

Through interprofessional education

Got to work with students of different healthcare occupations

Determining the plan of patient simulations

And giving way too many case presentations

 

Hook 1:

And now I’m dosing Vanco

Pharmacokinetics is a pharmacy staple

Ensuring safety, and our patients are stable

Crash cart filled and the meds are labeled

 

We do more than count by fives

Always taking time saving patient lives

Looking over DDI’s

And the prodrugs that need to hydrolyze

 

(Break)

 

Verse 2:

We are the Skaggs School of Pharmacy

In the mile-high city where it’s hard to breathe

Whether asthma, infection, or heart disease

We stay monitoring meds in the chart with ease

 

In addition to creatinine clearance

Calling all our patients to verify their adherence

Giving education so that they can understand

That they’re taking Synthroid for their thyroid gland

 

And with so many doses

Always gotta remain focused

Learning pharmacotherapy from respected professors

Authors to guidelines every semester

 

They helped me become independent practitioner

When pharmacy training required analyzing literature

And working with a team to improve patient outcomes

All my APPEs, couldn’t’ve done it without ‘em

 

Hook 2:

And I sit here grateful

For every teacher that was willing to provide me

Guidance, education ‘til I got a brain full

Can’t contain appreciativeness inside me

 

And let’s not forget my peers

Who throughout the years gave me lots of cheer

I am ready for my career

And to practice at the pharmacy frontier

Guest contributor: Dana Brandorff

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Once a troubled teen, now a physician in training

William Mundo called it a “miracle” that he graduated from high school in 2012. Now the aspiring physician is graduating with his master’s degree in public health from the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoSPH).

“I almost dropped out of high school,” said Mundo, who also earned a bachelor’s degree in public health and ethnic studies from the CU Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “No one was expecting me to graduate.”

Now, the once-at-risk student is enrolled in the CU School of Medicine for the fall.

A child’s admiration

The son of Mexican immigrants, Mundo was born in Los Angeles and moved with his family to Leadville, Colo., when he was 6 years old.

“No one in my family had gone to college.”

He remembers, as a child, watching visitors arrive at his house to see his father. They came with sicknesses and injuries. They came to be healed.

Mundo thought his father was a doctor, and he wanted to follow in his footsteps.

“When I got older, I discovered that no one in my family had gone to college,” Mundo said. “My father didn’t have his medical doctorate. He’d dropped out of school in the sixth grade.”

But, Mundo learned, his father was a curandero, a community healer who provided traditional, indigenous forms of treatment. He decided he wanted to heal people, too.

A painful goodbye

When Mundo was 16, his father left the United States. He returned to his hometown in southern Mexico to take care of his own ailing father.

Mundo didn’t know if he would ever see his father again. He fell into despair and began getting into trouble. He was on the verge of dropping out of school when a mentor reached out to get him back on track – and took him to visit CU Denver.

The mentor knew of Mundo’s interest in health care and thought CU Denver would be a welcoming environment for him and – with its relationship to CU Anschutz – would help him on the path to med school.

“He was 100 percent right,” Mundo said. “From the moment I stepped foot on campus, I knew this was where I wanted to go.”

With his mentor’s support, Mundo applied to CU Denver and was accepted. He called his father in Mexico to share the good news. His father was proud of him and said he was making plans to come back to the United States and see him succeed in college.

But during Mundo’s very first week of college, his father passed away in Mexico.

“My father couldn’t come back to support me in my journey,” he said. “That solidified my motivation to honor his legacy as a healer.”

A pathway to success

William Mundo, CU Denver | Anschutz student
First-generation student William Mundo earned a bachelor’s degree from CU Denver and a master’s degree from CU Anschutz. Now, he’s enrolled at the CU School of Medicine.

A standout student at CU Denver, Mundo struggled a bit to find his way in the beginning.

“Being a first-gen student, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” he said. “I started as a pre-med biology major, but as I took more public health classes, I saw how it applied to my life and what I’d seen growing up in an underserved town.”

Leveraging a full-tuition scholarship from the university, Mundo completed his undergraduate education in 2016 – debt-free in spite of the fact that his family was not able to help support his education financially.

From there, he went straight to a master’s program at ColoSPH, where he studied Global Health Systems, Management and Policy.

“As I studied public health, I saw applications to my own identity and cultural heritage and opportunities to promote health equity and social justice,” he said. He graduates May 25 at the CU Anschutz Spring Commencement 2018.

“It’s been a very rewarding pathway,” said Mundo, who received both the Judith Albino Diversity Scholarship and the Hoffman Public Health Scholarship. “The university has provided me this opportunity to get an education and make history in my family and my community.”

An ultimate goal

And his pathway through the university won’t end there. Though he received offers from med schools across the country, Mundo chose the CU School of Medicine.

“It’s an excellent school,” he said. “I bleed black and gold.”

He has big dreams for helping not just his own but communities around the world.

“After I get my MD, I hope to be able to work with rural and Indigenous people around the world to preserve their culture and their health,” he said. “Then, I want to open my own clinic. I want to focus on health policy and social justice advocacy. I want to promote a narrative of creating healing spaces, incorporating restorative justice and pushing the United States to lead the world in health outcomes.

And then there’s his ultimate goal: to be the first Mexican-American U.S. president.

“I want to challenge the status quo and make a difference for others,” he said. “And I’m so thankful for everyone at the university who’s helped me out and allowed me to make something out of my life.”

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Former Olympian sets her sights on a new goal – becoming a surgeon

From throwing a hammer in Bird’s Nest Stadium in the 2008 Summer Olympics to studying to become a surgeon at CU Anschutz, former Olympian Loree Thornton is no stranger to pushing herself to the limits in pursuit of her dreams.

Since watching the 1996 Summer Olympics, Thornton knew that when she grew up she was going to be an Olympian. She didn’t know what her sport would be, but she envisioned competing in the games and meeting her teenage crush – a Russian gymnast. She went so far as to take four years of Russian in high school.

“I was like, ‘I need to speak Russian so I can meet him,’” Thornton shares with a laugh in an interview, “because, you know, I’d meet him and get married.”

She didn’t learn what her event would be until she was an undergraduate in college. One day, her track-and-field coach suggested she try the hammer throw.

“I was like, ‘Cool what’s that?’” Before that day, Thornton admits, she’d never heard of hammer throwing. The hammer isn’t a typical tool, but rather a metal ball that weighs about nine pounds. Attached to a steel wire, the ball gets swung above the head and released to fly across the field.

“I think it picked me,” she says of the sport she adores.

Breaking records

From then on, Thornton worked toward her goal of reaching the Olympics. At Colorado State University, she trained about four hours a day with her coach, going on to set a hammer-throw record.

“I broke the collegiate record – the furthest-throwing female to throw a hammer of all time,” says Thornton. “That’s why I think it chose me; I loved it.”

Loree Thornton swinging her hammer
Loree Thornton competes for the U.S. in the hammer throw.

In 2008, her dreams became a reality. She earned one of the three spots on the U.S. hammer throwing team for the Summer Olympics in Beijing. She admits that walking into Bird’s Nest Stadium was one of the most surreal experiences of her life. She had given over 10 years in pursuit a dream.

“You question yourself, you question the process, and then to walk into a stadium that’s vibrating with energy wearing USA across your chest is one of the best feelings,” she says. “I cried when I walked out. I thought, ‘all that work for this moment.’ It was pretty exciting.”

Connection to Winter Olympics

Even though Thornton participated in the Summer games, she is connected to the Winter Olympics. Some of her former track teammates went on to participate in bobsledding, and a former roommate from her first year of medical school is a gold-medalist speed skater.

Her favorite Winter Olympic sport to watch?

“I love figure skating. It’s really cool to see all those years of hard work come out so beautiful,” she says. “It’s where sport meets art.”

After the 2008 Olympics and four more years of throwing hammers, Thornton retired from competition in 2012 to chase another dream: to become a surgeon. Being a doctor had always been on her mind, but she had doubted her abilities – even after going to the Olympics.

“I came from a pretty underprivileged background. Saying you want to be a doctor is on par with saying you want to be an astronaut. People don’t do that, not people like you,” she says. If going to the Olympics taught Thornton anything, it’s that any dream, no matter how seemingly unattainable, can come true with enough hard work and dedication.

Sights on a new goal: surgeon

Thornton applied to medical schools and, upon hearing that she had been accepted into CU School of Medicine, she cancelled all other school appointments.

“I thought, ‘I got my number one choice – I’m done!’” she laughs.

Training to become a surgeon isn’t exactly like the long hours in the gym, but she is finding new ways to challenge herself to become the best-possible doctor. Thornton admits that when people suggest the kind of surgeon she should become – orthopedics is an oft-mentioned specialty – she thinks she wants to take a different path to prove them wrong. Whatever surgical route she chooses, Thornton continues to work tirelessly.

“There are some weeks where I get five hours of sleep a night. I’m getting my butt kicked, and I’m tired, but then I go into clinicals and I’ll learn about a disease in class and I’ll see it and feel like I’m helping a patient. That’s my favorite part: It reminds me of why we do what we do,” she says. “One day someone’s going to need the best of us.”

Thornton is currently in her second year of clinicals at CU Anschutz, on track to graduate with the class of 2020.

Similar to the way a sport picked her years ago, Thornton believes CU Anschutz likewise came calling.

“I feel happy where I am,” she said. “I’m supposed to be here.”

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Mapping the Body art exhibit

An excited buzz replaced the usual quiet at the Health Sciences Library on Feb. 8, as students, faculty and staff from both CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus joined for a first-of-its-kind art and poetry exhibit.

“Mapping the Body: Poetry & Anatomical Art,” a collaborative exhibit that combined creative writing and body parts, was the brainchild of two English professors and an anatomy professor. Organizers hope to see the collaborative project continue with future students.

A different kind of collaboration

In 2016, Danielle Royer, PhD, associate professor and the vice director of the Modern Human Anatomy master’s program at the CU School of Medicine, hosted Nicky Beer, PhD, an associate professor of English in the CU Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and her poetry class.

Angela Dueñas, Nicky Beer, PhD, Brian Barker, PhD, and Danielle Royer, PhD, organized the event.

“We showed the class through the lab,” said Royer. “The event was a powerful experience. Afterwards, I reached out to see if they were interested in a joint art exhibit with us at some later point.”

Brian Barker, PhD, also an associate professor of English in the CU Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Beer wanted to give their creative writing students a chance to imitate poetry they were studying in class.

“We were reading poetry about cadavers and the morgue,” said Beer. “Our students really took to it and wanted to try it themselves. Since CU Anschutz is just down the road, we knew we had the opportunity to work with students in the sciences and do something really cool.”

Creativity in the sciences

Each modern anatomy student created a piece of art inspired by the human body. A creative writing student from CU Denver was then paired with a CU Anschutz student and wrote a poem motivated by the artwork.

The 21 mixed-media pieces of art lined the walls of the Health Sciences Library Gallery, with 13 of them accompanied by poems. At the opening reception, the creative-writing students shared their poetry to a packed room.

CU Denver student Miriam Ordonez poses by her poetry.

Steven Vigil-Roach, student in the CU Denver College of Liberal Arts of Sciences, wrote a poem entitled “After the Diagnosis.”

– “On Sunday we said goodbye, one last prayer and I cried for hours after, knowing I was so near the end I didn’t want to go home, even the children were afraid to sleep. The whole truth seemed far too tangled up in the rest of everything, one endless tangle I wasn’t sure if prayers would help any of us sleep.”

“When I heard about the project, I knew I wanted to be involved,” said Vigil-Roach. “I love it when the scientific crosses paths with the creative. Interdisciplinary projects are a great opportunity to push boundaries and take new perspectives. Personally, I draw a lot of inspiration from the sciences, and so this was the perfect opportunity for me to have a foot in both worlds.”

Funding the humanities

Organizers received a “President’s Fund for the Humanities” CU system grant for the exhibit. Modern Human Anatomy graduate student Angelique Dueñas helped secure the funding.

The exhibit will be displayed until March 30. It will return in August to the Fulginiti Pavilion for the start of the 2018-19 school year, with many students and organizers saying they hope the project will continue beyond next year.

SEE THE EXHIBIT

Catch this exhibit at the Health Sciences Library until March 30.

New traditions 

“Collaborative works are so great for students,” said Vigil-Roach. “It brings the student community together. I think projects like this help dispel the notion that the creative and the scientific exist in separate spheres when they in fact overlap and coexist in wonderful ways,” he said.

 

“We look forward to continue bridging academic disciplines,” said Royer. “We get special exposure for our students, while showcasing our talent to coworkers, fellow students and community members.”

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College of Nursing ranked fourth in Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs

The University of Colorado College of Nursing has been ranked fourth nationally in Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs by U.S. News & World Report.

The latest listing, released Wednesday, moves the College of Nursing up on the U.S. News rankings. Last year, it came in ninth nationally for its online graduate program among the nation’s masters’ degree granting institutions.

“The College of Nursing is proud to be ranked fourth nationally in online graduate nursing programs,” said Interim Dean Mary Krugman, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “We have outstanding faculty who are committed to delivering online programs that are expertly designed, creating successful outcomes for student learning.”

CU College of Nursing graduates
CU College of Nursing graduates

The College of Nursing at CU Anschutz has been strategically employing highly skilled, committed and diligent distance educators for 20 years who have not only delivered a quality education to a wide range of students, but have helped recruit even more.

That record of excellence has often landed the college’s online programs among the best in the nation.

“This recognition is a validation of a rich history of quality online education,” said  Diane J. Skiba, PhD, RN, FAAN. “It is particularly rewarding this year as we celebrate our 20th year of our online informatics graduate program that is built upon a learner-centric model of education.”

Skiba is a professor and specialty director of health care informatics at the CU College of Nursing.

U.S. News used five categories in determining their rankings for online nursing programs. These include faculty credentials, student engagement, admissions selectivity, peer reputation and student service and technology.  U.S. News has ranked distance education programs for six years and believes online learning is becoming integral to all types of education and that consumers are hungry for information related to online degrees.

 

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CU Anschutz hosts student research forum

Why can a rhythmic tune halt the tremors and walking struggles in people with Parkinson’s disease, allowing them to dance with fluidity and box with precision? And why do some teenagers storm sobbing out of clinic doors when their providers broach the subject of weight control?

Those were two of 62 questions University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus students tackled as part of the 32nd Annual Student Research Forum. Posters stretched across the north and south towers of the Education 2 building, as the students presented their projects to about 400 of their instructors and peers.

“We’ve been told that the half-life of medical information is approximately seven years, so something that we are taught at the beginning of our first year of medical school may or may not be relevant at the end of our residency,” said David Nguyen, a third-year medical student, explaining the importance of the event. “Especially if we want to go into academic medicine, research is our bread and butter, and we need to stay informed.”

While learning research skills, students also benefit from networking, connecting with mentors, honing presentation skills, boosting resumes and delving into something new by taking part in research forums, said Will Dewispelaere, a second-year medical student. “We all have this inherent scientific desire to find out new things,” he said.

Will Dewispelaere
Will Dewispelaere, a volunteer presenter at the student research forum, studied the effect of rhythm on Parkinson’s patients’ brains.

Probing the Parkinson’s brain

Dewispelaere, whose undergraduate degree is in neuroscience, has had a long interest in disorders such as Parkinson’s disease (PD), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that leads to severe tremors, limb rigidity, slowness of movement and gait and balance problems.

“I’ve been involved with Parkinson’s research since my junior year in college,” he said. “For some time, we have known that if you ask some people with PD to walk, they’ll have trouble getting started. But if you ask them to snap their fingers or listen to music and then walk to the beat, they tend to have fewer problems.”

Research has linked the sound of rhythm to improvement of gait, velocity and postural stability, Dewispelaere said. “Preliminary findings showed music therapy could ease these common Parkinson’s symptoms, including depression and anxiety,” he said, noting the popularity of dancing and boxing classes for PD patients. “But no one really knew why.”

In his study, researchers compared the brains of 23 PD patients with 21 age-matched, healthy patients (HC), using a special imaging technique (magnetoencephalography). The participants tapped a button with their right fingers to rhythmic cues played in their left ears.

While both groups had similar activation in some areas of the brain, the PD group had increased activation in two right areas, one responsible for sound recognition and processing (superior temporal gyri), and the other important to the integration of sensory information, including hearing and self-motion (supramarginal).

“Our conclusion was that increased activity in these two regions of the brain allows for those with Parkinson’s disease to bypass some of their abnormal neural circuitry to generate regular movements,” Dewispelaere said.

Casillas and Vukovic
Paola Casillas and Nemanja Vukovic questioned the quality of weight-control communication between teens and health providers surrounding obesity for their project.

Closing a provider-teenager gap

Four-year medical student Paola Casillas and second-year medical student Nemanja Vukovic focused their project on improving provider and teenage patient communication regarding a top health issue of today: obesity.

“It started about six years ago with a medical student here who saw a lot of these conversations go downhill really quickly, with the teens leaving feeling very discouraged or crying or worse,” Vukovic said. “Feeling like these conversations were super counterproductive, she wanted to know what was turning these kids off,” he said.

With the help of a teenage advisory board, the students devised questions and formed focus groups, using 47 volunteers from Denver-area high schools. The most consistent finding revolved around providers’ use of the Body Mass Index (BMI) chart when initiating conversations about patients’ weight.

Most focus-group members said they disliked the tactic, Casillas said. “They said: ‘I’m not a dot on a screen. This isn’t getting to know me and finding out what I struggle with,” Casillas recounted.

Cultural and gender differences surrounding what family and peers considered appropriate weight also placed pressure on some teens. “The biggest thing we ultimately learned was that they really want the provider to get to know who they are, what their family is like, and their goals and motivations for wanting to lose weight,” Vukovic said.

The project also involved sending surveys to local providers who served teens. Nearly 70 percent of the providers reported almost always starting weight conversations with a BMI chart, with the majority also indicating that their weight-control counseling with teens was not very effective.

The good news: Both providers and teens want to see change. “I was surprised by how much they cared,” Casillas said of the high-school students. “They want to have these conversations with their providers, and they understand the importance of the issue.”

With most providers indicating interest in learning the results of the project and incorporating the findings into their practices, the student researchers aim to expand the study and develop a provider plan for tailoring weight conversations to individual patients, Vukovic said. “We found some areas of disconnect, and we are hoping to bridge those gaps.”

 

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