Miss University Pageant Set for Wednesday

Winner advances to Miss Mississippi competition next summer

Last year's Miss University contestants

Last year’s Miss University contestants

OXFORD, Miss. – Fourteen University of Mississippi students will vie for the title of Miss University 2015 at the 66th annual pageant Wednesday evening (Oct. 22) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for Performing Arts. The event is hosted by the Student Activities Association and the Ole Miss Student Union.

The winner will advance to the Miss Mississippi Scholarship Pageant in June 2015 in Vicksburg. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. Miss University pageant are available at the UM Box Office in the Student Union for $10 with an Ole Miss student ID and $15 to the general public.

The pageant will be emceed by Anna Beth Higginbotham, reigning Miss University, and Jasmine Murray, Miss Mississippi 2014. Entertainment will feature students from Hinge Dance Company as well as both Murray and Higginbotham. Besides performing her talent from Miss America, Murray will speak about her reign as Miss Mississippi and her experience preparing for Miss America.

All contestants participate in a private interview with a panel of five judges the day of the pageant. The interview counts as 25 percent of their score. That evening, each contestant competes in the talent competition, worth 35 percent, and swimwear, worth 15 percent. Contestants will also take part in the evening wear competition, worth 20 percent, and an on-stage interview, worth 5 percent. Judges score each contestant on a scale of 1 to 10 in each phase of competition.

The contestants participating in this year’s pageant are: France Beard of Madison; Morgan Lindsey Burnett of Brandon; Carol Coker of Blue Springs; Taylor Cos of Hoover, Alabama; Katri Gilbert of Bellevue, Washington; Mary Randall Ivy of Oxford; Emmaline Johnson of Chattanooga, Tennessee; Taylor-Alice Mays of Arab, Alabama; Jade Mixon of Greenville; Grace Myers of Austin, Texas; Katherine Rollins of Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Ivey Swan of Hattiesburg; Dana Wesley of West Point; and Rachel Westmoreland of Kennesaw, Georgia.

For more information, contact Bradley Baker, director of the Ole Miss Student Union at 662-915-1044 or tbbaker@olemiss.edu.

UM Symposium Focuses on Semiotics of Race

Two-day event features lectures, panel discussions

Joe Feagin

Joe Feagin

OXFORD, Miss. – Multidisciplinary views of race and ethnicity in public arenas will be discussed Thursday and Friday (Oct. 23-24) at the University of Mississippi.

A symposium on “Symbols of Exclusion: The Semiotics of Race in Public Spaces” begins at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Overby Center auditorium. The public is invited to the event, co-organized by UM Critical Race Studies Group and the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Its co-sponsors are the university and the Association for Jewish Studies-Legacy Heritage Jewish Studies Project.

Joe Feagin, the Ella C. Mc Fadden Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M University, lectures Thursday on “White Racial Frame: Racializing Racism.” On Friday, James E. Young, distinguished university professor in English and university studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst will address “How Do Nations Remember Their National Shame?” Both keynote lectures begin at 1 p.m. in the Overby Center auditorium.

The symposium also features four panel discussions consisting of scholars, professors and graduate students from the region, across the U.S. and Canada delivering papers about the uses of public space during the Holocaust, in the Jim Crow South and during other historical epochs. The first panel discussion begins at 3 p.m. Thursday; subsequent discussions commence at 8:30 a.m. Friday. All panel discussions meet in the Overby Center conference room, on the second floor.

“This symposium is the result of a unique vision and a tremendous amount of hard work on the part of Willa Johnson, her collaborators, Robert M. Ehrenreich and Krista Hegburg of the USHMM’s Mandel Center and the UM Critical Race Studies Group,” said Kirsten Dellinger, UM associate professor and chair of sociology and anthropology. “It is exciting to have such distinguished keynote speakers and a wide variety of panelists on campus to address the role of symbols in the perpetuation and elimination of racial inequality.”

John Sonnett, UM associate professor of sociology and co-chair of the Critical Race Studies Group, explained the significance of the program.

“The idea of semiotics tells us that symbols don’t inherently communicate meaning, but instead take on meanings given to them by people,” Sonnett said. “Social inequalities and historical contexts shape the kinds of meanings people assign to symbols, however. So to better understand symbols, we need to understand their social and historical contexts, which is what the symposium is focused on.”

Ehrenreich, director of University Programs at the Mandel Center, is equally excited about the program.

“We at the USHMM are pleased to have found such wonderful partners for this interdisciplinary symposium that explores emerging research on the memorialization of histories of racialized atrocities and nurtures collaboration among scholars of the Holocaust and the many other friends that are making significant contributions to this field,” he said.

To register for the panel discussions, go to ushmm.org/events/symbol-symposium/. For a detailed program, visit ushmm.org/mandel-center-symposia.

Josh Gladden Elected to Two National Leadership Roles

NCPA director brings leadership, experience and vision to professional societies

Josh Gladden

Josh Gladden

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi administrator and associate professor of physics and astronomy has been elected to two national societies’ leadership positions.

Joseph “Josh” Gladden, director of the university’s National Center for Physical Acoustics, is chair of the Acoustical Society of America’s Physical Acoustics Technical Committee. During his three-year term in the role, his primary duties are to represent the physical acoustics community to the larger ASA leadership, work to ensure a broad and robust representation of physical acoustics at the biannual ASA meetings, and to help implement tools and resources to advance and connect the international physical acoustics community.

Gladden is also a “member-at-large” for the topical Group on Instrumentation and Measurement Science, which is a unit of the American Physical Society. The focus of GIMS is to advance the development of new measurement tools and techniques by creating a forum for discussions, collaborations, awareness and recognition of significant achievements.

“I am honored to represent my colleagues in the national and international physical acoustics research community,” Gladden said. “My election to the GIMS came a bit of a surprise, but I am excited to get involved in this group.”

Gladden shared his vision for both groups.

“My primary goals as chair will be to increase and improve tools for physical acoustics researchers to connect and collaborate, as well is to maintain a wide range of topics being discussed at our biannual meetings,” he said. “The primary goal of the GIMS is to promote and provide a venue for dialogue on the development of new instrumentation and measurement techniques in the physics community.

“This is important because often, new breakthroughs in physics and science in general follow the development of a new tool which provides new insight.”

Gladden’s predecessor, Albert Migliori of Los Alamos National Lab, said he is confident the UM professor will make do a great job as chair.

“Josh eats, sleeps, breathes physical acoustics and is in both an intellectual and leadership position to advance the field better than anyone in the U.S.,” Migliori said. “Josh builds high-performance ultrasound measurements systems based on an advanced technology called Resonant Ultrasound Spectroscopy and uses them for cutting edge research.

“Because he builds, not buys, the measurement systems, he has unique research capabilities as well as providing real educational opportunities for budding scientists as students.”

Gladden joined the UM faculty as an assistant professor in 2005 after earning his Ph.D. and working as a postdoctoral fellow at Pennsylvania State University. Before that, he worked three years as a physics instructor at the United World College in Montezuma, New Mexico. The United World College is an international school for gifted students representing approximately 70 countries with a network of 10 sister campuses around the globe.

Gladden holds master’s and doctoral degrees in physics from the University of Montana and Penn State, respectively. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of the South and was a postdoctoral fellow at Penn State in 2003-2005.

Gladden co-authored a paper, “Motion of a Viscoelastic Micellar Fluid Around a Cylinder: Flow and Fracture,” which was listed in “Physics News of 2007″ by the American Physical Society. His other honors and awards include membership on the Emerging Leaders Conference steering committee of promising recent alumni of the University of the South, both the Duncan and Bradock Fellowships for doctoral students at Penn State, the Tandy Technology Scholars Award for Education in Science and the William T. Allen Award in Physics.

Gladden has co-authored 21 juried articles, been an invited speaker at 18 conferences and secured research grants totaling $621,005 over a seven-year period. Gladden’s research areas are resonant ultrasound spectroscopy, wormlike micellar materials, continuum and granular dynamics.

He and his wife, Nicole, have three children: Chase, Camille and Josephine.

Established in 1989, the NCPA has unique facilities and infrastructure, including an anechoic chamber, a Mach 5 wind tunnel, a jet test facility, a resonant ultraspectroscopy lab, Faraday labs and a multimillion dollar machine shop for in-house design. NCPA employs 30 permanent, full-time individuals, as well as 16 graduate students, five research fellows and eight undergraduates. Its research scientists are recognized experts in their fields, bringing experience from government, academia and industry.

To view Gladden’s website, go to http://www.phy.olemiss.edu/~jgladden/.

For more information about the UM National Center for Physical Acoustics, call 662-915-5889 or go to http://ncpa.olemiss.edu/.

Professor to Design Program in Wellness and Physical Activity

UM health and physical education expert developing emphasis for education majors

Alicia Stapp joins the UM School of Education faculty to lead the school's new emphasis in wellness and physical activity for education majors.

Alicia Stapp joins the UM School of Education faculty to lead the school’s new emphasis in wellness and physical activity for education majors.

OXFORD, Miss. – Health and physical education expert Alicia Stapp will lead the University of Mississippi School of Education‘s effort to implement a new emphasis in wellness and physical activity for elementary education majors starting in fall 2015.

The new focus on wellness and physical activity is the result of a $1.2 million grant awarded to the School of Education last fall by the Bower Foundation of Ridgeland. The emphasis will train future elementary teachers to integrate physical activity in the classroom to support academic achievement.

“I’m very excited to join an institution as innovative and forward-thinking as the Ole Miss School of Education,” said Stapp, a Florida native who comes to UM from the University of Central Florida. “We have an excellent opportunity to make an impact on not only in the way we train teachers, but on the unknown number of children our future graduates can positively impact in Mississippi schools.”

Stapp, an assistant professor of elementary education and wellness and physical activity, is designing the new curriculum, which is expected to include four specialized courses totaling 12 credits. The proposed coursework could cover research showing how active lifestyles positively affect learning in children, pedagogical theories, wellness integration strategies (i.e., introducing music and movement into lessons) and multiple, hands-on learning experiences allowing teacher candidates to observe working educators as part of class.

David Rock, UM education dean, originally approached the Bower Foundation about the new emphasis after he collaborated with the Move to Learn organization, also supported by Bower, which visits schools around the state showing how to implement fun and engaging physical activity into the classroom. The organization’s efforts are grounded in Mississippi-based research showing a direct correlation between improved test achievement, student behavior and physical activity levels.

“All the research out there shows that if you can stimulate physical activity of children, it can reduce absences and increases academic learning,” Rock explained. “Dr. Stapp is extremely dynamic and has an amazing passion for children and exercise.”

Stapp hopes to have the emphasis on the UM books by next fall. Another goal for the program is to work with the Mississippi Department of Education to create a new license endorsement in wellness and physical activity that could be acquired by completing the UM program.

“Dr. Stapp will teach pre-service teachers how to integrate wellness and physical activity into their existing curriculum,” said Susan McClelland, UM chair of teacher education. “This approach will help transform the general education classroom, ensuring increased opportunities for all children to experience success.”

Long-term, the new program will seek to place multiple graduates within individual schools to help make active learning and wellness an integral part of the culture within schools.

Before joining UM, Stapp taught in Florida public schools for 10 years and was an adjunct professor at UCF, where she taught courses on integrating arts and movement into classroom curricula. She holds a doctorate in instructional leadership from Nova Southeastern University, a master’s degree in physical education from Florida State University and a bachelor’s degree in social science education from UCF.

Horseback Riding and Ski Trips Available through Ole Miss Outdoors

Spots remain available for several fall outdoor adventures

Camping is one of the trips Ole Miss Outdoors has offered in the past.

Camping is one of the trips Ole Miss Outdoors has offered in the past.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Department of Campus Recreation and Ole Miss Outdoors have plenty of adventure left for this fall, including scheduled trips featuring horseback riding in Kentucky and skiing in the Colorado Rockies.

“Take an adventure somewhere other than the Square,” said Katherine Westfall, Ole Miss Outdoors graduate assistant. “There is so much more to see, so much more to do. Ole Miss Outdoors lets you get out there and live.”

Spots are still open for the Nov.21 “horsepacking” trip in Big South Fork National Forest in northern Tennessee. Campus Recreation will join Southeast Pack Trips for a full-day adventure on horseback to see the terrain from a higher vantage point, plus camping. The price for is $275, while the general public’s cost is $300.

A popular activity last year that is back this year is the skiing and snowboarding trip. On Dec.13, Campus Recreation ventures off to the slopes of the Rockies for a five-day stay at the Grand Lodge in Crested Butte, Colorado, where participants will spend their time enjoying the slopes of Mount Crested Butte.

OMOD finishes out the season with Wilderness First Responder Certification Dec. 13-20. The Wilderness First Responder course will teach participants the techniques for backcountry first aid. The WFR is the standard in the outdoor community in identifying those who are committed to safety.

The Ole Miss Outdoors office is on the first floor of the Turner Center next to the locker rooms. Stop by for more information or to reserve a spot on one of the trips.

For more information on Ole Miss Outdoors or other Campus Recreation programs, call 662-915-6735 or visit http://www.campusrec.olemiss.edu.

Online Program Updates Name to UM High School

Name change reflects growing reputation and credibility among online programs

UM High School_logo_high res-page-001OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – The University of Mississippi’s online high school continues to advance its programming and reputation. The school grabbed a national ranking late this summer when thebestschools.org named the program “one of the best online high schools in the country.”

On the heels of that accolade, the program received official approval to change its name to the University of Mississippi High School.

“We truly are a comprehensive high school that has everything except the homecoming dance and football team,” said Ellen Shelton, UMHS director.

After a review and approval process with the national accrediting body AdvancedED-Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and an official consent from UM Provost Morris Stocks, the former UM Independent Study High School has dropped the “independent study” term from official materials and is focusing on providing a rigorous high school experience culminating in a high school diploma through Ole Miss.

“This is just the next step in increasing the credibility of the program,” Shelton said. “We felt like we were outgrowing the term ‘independent study high school,’ and we wanted to be seen as academically rigorous and relevant.”

The program has more than 250 students enrolled in 43 courses this fall. Some are completing just a course or two to complement their current local high school education, while others are taking several courses to complete their high school diplomas and move on with higher education or career.

“It’s important to the students we enroll in the program that they earn their high school diploma from a reputable school so that they are not jeopardizing their future college careers, work opportunities and such,” said Sandy Bowen, UMHS program coordinator. “Making sure they are educated through a strong program that carries the weight of an institution like Ole Miss just assures students that even though they are taking a nontraditional route to complete their education, their degree will still be accepted wherever they go in life.”

The UM High School will host an open house at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Oxford-University Depot, behind the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Students and parents are who interested in finding out more about the online program and in meeting students and faculty are invited.

More information can also be found online at http://www.olemiss.edu/hsathome.

Galapagos Tortoises Topic for Science Cafe

UM biology professor will discuss preservation efforts in Oct. 21 presentation

³Photo courtesy of Yale University²

Photo courtesy of Yale
University

OXFORD, Miss. – Methods for conserving threatened and endangered species of tortoises is the topic for the next installment a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The fall semester’s third meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 21 at Lusa Pastry Cafe, 2305 West Jackson Ave. Ryan Garrick, UM assistant professor of biology, will discuss “Applications of genetics to Galapagos tortoise conservation.” Admission is free.

“Molecular genetics offers conservation biologists critical information upon which to design efficient, effective management strategies,” Garrick said. “Galapagos tortoises are flagships in this respect because captive breeding programs have been largely facilitated by genetic tools.”

Garrick’s 30-minute presentation will review recent work on this group.

“Occasionally, past hybridization can actually generate positive outcomes for conservation,” he said. “This is the case for Chelonoidis elephantopus, a species that was thought to have been extinct over 150 years ago. However, for another pair of evolutionarily distinct lineages of Galapagos tortoises, ongoing hybridization is likely to lead to a net loss of biodiversity via lineage collapse and replacement with a hybrid swarm.”

Garrick earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from La Trobe University in Australia. He was a postdoctoral researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University and at Yale University.

Garrick’s research interests are insect evolution, molecular ecology, biogeography, population genetics and conservation biology.

For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to http://www.phy.olemiss.edu/oxfordsciencecafe. For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/physics_and_astronomy or call 662-915-5311.

Students Place Second in National Sports Law Competition

Showing continues string of impressive finishes for law school teams

Matt Peters (left) and John Michael Allen (right) garnered  second place at the 2014 National Sports Law Negotiation Competition in San Diego.

Matt Peters (left) and John Michael Allen (right) garnered second place at the 2014 National Sports Law Negotiation Competition in San Diego.

OXFORD,Miss. – Two University of Mississippi School of Law students finished second in the 2014 National Sports Law Negotiation Competition in San Diego.

Matt Peters of Birmingham, Alabama, and John Michael Allen of Big Stone Gap, Virginia, both third-year students, competed Sept. 19-21 against 36 teams from across the nation.

“I am very proud of the performance by Matthew Peters and John Michael Allen at the 2014 National Sports Law Negotiation Competition in San Diego, California,” said Brad Ryan, chair of the law school’s negotiation board. “The continued successes of the Negotiation Board and all of Ole Miss Law’s advocacy boards is a testament to the students’ hard work, faculty members’ coaching and the comprehensive education we receive here in Oxford which allows us to compete with law schools nationwide.”

The competition’s purpose is to give law students a great experience, competition and place to meet like minds in the sports law world, the event’s website notes. It focuses on current issues in the sports world each year and facilitates students, coaches and judges to negotiate and make decisions on sports topics in an academic setting.

“This achievement is especially exciting when combined with the championship success of Drew Taggart and Brad Cook at last year’s Law Meets Transactional Negotiation Competition in New York,” said Brad Daigneault, a third-year law student and secretary of the law school’s negotiation board.

“When the board was created just a few years ago, the members believed that through hard work and proper preparation our members could be competitive with students from all across the country. Our recent successes show how far we have come in a short period of time and we look forward to continuing to compete in various external competitions while representing our law school proudly.”

Peters and Allen competed against two different Florida A&M University College of Law teams in rounds one and two, and against the University of Maryland School of Law in the finals. Round topics included “Preserving Torrey Pines” (City of San Diego vs. Municipal Golf Committee), “Behind the Mask” (World Umpires Union vs. Wilson Equipment) and “Serving up Supplements” (Fabiana Claudino vs. BPI Sports).

“We were judged by reputable business people across California, California state court judges and federal judges,” Peters said. “They all gave us invaluable insights into the real world that we’ll be able to carry forward as we begin to practice.”

Final round judges included Roger T. Benitez, U.S. district judge, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California; Joan K. Irion, associate justice, Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One, California Court of Appeal; and Browder A. Willis III, superior court judge, Superior Court of California, County of San Diego.

UMMC Among Top 10 Medical Schools to See Increase in Research Funding

Lab manager Zannel Blanchard, front, assists in the translational research of Dr. Wael ElShamy, associate professor of biochemistry, back. Research at UMMC continues to draw in more federal funding, putting the Medical Center among the top 10 in the nation to see an increase in funding from National Institutes of Health this year.

Lab manager Zannel Blanchard, front, assists in the translational research of Dr. Wael ElShamy, associate professor of biochemistry, back. Research at UMMC continues to draw in more federal funding, putting the Medical Center among the top 10 in the nation to see an increase in funding from National Institutes of Health this year.

JACKSON, Miss. – During one of the most competitive times to access funding from one of the nation’s largest research sponsors, the University of Mississippi Medical Center has received more awards and more money than the previous year.

The National Institutes of Health, the primary federal agency for biomedical and health-related research, has been forced to become more selective in distributing its awards over the last few years, a product of cost-cutting among government agencies.

But in that same time, UMMC has managed to pull in more funding for its extensive research projects, nearly $42 million this fiscal year, a feat placing the university among the top 10 in the nation for increased percentage of NIH funding. During the last fiscal year, NIH-funded projects at UMMC stood at $23.1 million.

“We are very proud that our NIH funding is on the rise. It gives us incredible prestige and credibility in the academic community to have that source of funding, and we are going to look forward to doing that further every year,” said Dr. Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research at UMMC. “It’s a real challenge because it’s a pretty hard and competitive point right now.”

Overall, UMMC received more than $52.1 million this year for research from multiple funding sources, representing an 83 percent increase in research funding from last year.

“This success comes from the hard work of the individual researchers at our institution,” said Summers.

Researchers such as Dr. John Hall, chair of the department of physiology and biophysics and the lead investigator in UMMC’s Mississippi Center for Obesity Research, continue to draw in NIH funding because of the magnitude and potential global impact of his studies.

“We were fortunate to receive two major NIH grants this past year,” said Hall, citing an $11.4 million and a $10.3 million grant, both over a five-year period that will continue his team’s research into obesity and cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

The second grant comes from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a component of NIH, and is a continuation of a program project grant for cardiovascular studies that has been funded at UMMC for 45 years, said Hall.

Dr. Thomas Mosley, a UMMC professor of geriatrics and lead researcher at the MIND Center, has pulled in funding from many sources thanks to his research into Alzheimer’s disease.

“We’ve been successful and lucky in some ways. We’ve certainly worked hard and we’ve tried to be very strategic about the institutes where we seek funding,” said Mosley. “Specifically, we try to closely match the institute’s priorities.”

Mosley said because cohort-studies like his are expensive to run, it’s become increasingly important to cultivate buy-in from multiple institutes within NIH.

“So instead of going to just one institute and saying we need a whole lot of support to get this study done, we look for ways to work across institutes and get multiple partners involved,” said Mosley.

The tightening of the purse strings at NIH also has prompted the MIND Center to identify alternative funding sources, said Denise Lafferty, chief of operations at the center.

“The compound effect comes into play, and one result impacts the other; the NIH funding helped us to get state funding and the state funding and private support can help us get more NIH funding,” said Lafferty.

During 2013, Mississippi allocated $3 million to the MIND Center, marking the first time for state funding at the center, she said.

The federal and private funding – for which the MIND Center has raised more than $10 million – encouraged state leaders to pay attention, Lafferty said.

The funding from the state and private entities is helping pay for infrastructure projects, which also is critical in gaining NIH funding, said Lafferty.  “If you don’t have the staff and equipment to be able to prove you can really deliver the results of the grant, then they are less likely to give you the funding.”

Even as the future of research funding means finding alternative strategies to obtain it, UMMC and its researchers remain committed to the cause, said Summers.

“It’s always important to remember that the point of the research mission is not to get grants,” said Summers. “That’s very important as the fuel for funding the research mission, but the point of the research mission is the discovery itself and the discovery in the context of helping the health care of Mississippians. That’s the real main goal.

“As long as we have our eyes on the prize of discovery and improving the health care of Mississippians, that’s really what we want to do.”

By the numbers

FY 2014 – $52,185,653 in research funding
FY 2013 – $28,488,789 in research funding

FY 2014 – $41,995,434 in NIH funding
FY 2013 – $23,137,306 in NIH funding

FY 2014 – 127 awards
FY 2013 – 119 awards

Diabetic No More: UMMC Patient Gets State’s First Isolated Pancreas Transplant

Nancy Smith and famiily

Nancy Smith with daughter Braeden and son Carruth

JACKSON, Miss. – Ask brittle diabetic Nancy Smith why she opted for a pancreas transplant, a rare procedure not without risk or potentially devastating complications, and she’ll tell you about her heart.

There’s her son Carruth, an 18-year-old high school senior. There’s daughter Braeden, 23, a college graduate and preschool teacher.

“They’re amazing,” the Jackson resident says of her children. Carruth copes with the challenges of Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, and a rare neuropsychiatric disorder associated with strep infections.

“They made the decision easy. I want to watch them continue to grow, and to be around for all the major life events to come,” Smith said. “He needs me, and so does she. Nobody is like a mama.”

On Sept. 30, Smith became the first person in the state to receive an isolated pancreas transplant at the University of Mississippi Medical Center – not the more medically common combination of a pancreas and kidney, but a pancreas alone.  “It’s an incredibly rare procedure,” said Dr. Mark Earl, an assistant professor of surgery at UMMC, who performed the transplant and whose expertise includes all aspects of liver and pancreas surgery and transplant.

“It’s especially rare for someone who has no kidney failure, but has other life-threatening complications from type 1 diabetes,” Earl said. And, he said, the surgery marks the 10th transplant of a pancreas at UMMC this year, putting its transplant program on par with other acclaimed programs in the Southeast.

Diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, 52-year-old Smith said she and her doctors knew it would be a matter of time before she’d need a transplant. She lost sight in one eye. Her neuropathy was worsening. Quality of life was waning.

Because Smith’s pancreas wasn’t producing the hormone insulin and couldn’t regulate her blood sugar levels, her blood sugar was unpredictable and would drop without warning, causing her to pass out.  “Low blood sugar can be immediately life threatening. You pass out, and if it doesn’t come back up, you can die,” Earl said.

“Because Nancy is a Type 1 diabetic, the insulin-producing cells in her pancreas had been killed by her own immune system,” Earl said.

During a three-hour operation, Earl left her native pancreas alone; it worked well except for that one potentially fatal flaw. The donated pancreas he positioned into her abdomen produces crucial insulin, which stimulates cells to absorb sugar from the blood.

Before the surgery, Smith had tried to do all the right things:  Frequently exercise. Watch her diet and weight. Pray. Try not to fret about the future.

“If I could stay calm and not worry about things as much, that would help,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t exercise like I do.”

But as her health continued to deteriorate, Smith in July 2013 secured a place on the transplant waiting list at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans. It was right before UMMC’s transplant program began performing pancreas-kidney procedures.

“They had to take me off the waiting list at Ochsner because I couldn’t find anyone who could go to New Orleans and stay there three months with me,” Smith said.

The timing could not have been better.

“It was ironic,” said Smith’s sister-in-law, Terri Gillespie of Jackson, who happens to be UMMC’s chief nursing executive officer. “She came over to the house and said she wished UMMC would get approval for a pancreas transplant. I said, ‘Oh, my gosh. That happened yesterday! ‘ ”

In January, Smith met with Dr. Kenneth Kokko, an associate professor of nephrology and member of UMMC’s transplant team. “Dr. Earl came in, and he said, ‘You’re going to be the first person to receive a pancreas transplant, and if there was any person who needed a pancreas transplant, you’re it,” Smith remembered.

On Sept. 24, Earl called her:  A donor pancreas had been located. She grabbed the bag that had been packed for months and headed to UMMC, only to find out that the pancreas wasn’t viable for transplant. “We got back into the car, and Nancy said, ‘I feel like I had Braxton-Hicks contractions and I went to the hospital to have a baby, and I got sent back home,’ ” said her sister, Janie Robbins of Ridgeland.

“Carruth was so sad when I came back home,” Smith said. “He didn’t say a word. He just put his head on my shoulder. Braeden was bummed, but positive that all things happen for a reason.”

Just days later, Earl summoned Smith again with news of a potential pancreas. She hurried back to UMMC, donned a hospital gown, and counted down the hours before surgery in a patient room, Gillespie and Robbins at her side.

Earl stood at her bedside and detailed the risks:  There would be a 30 percent chance she’d have to go back into surgery the first week. There was a 10 percent chance the blood supply to the new pancreas could become blocked during the first six weeks.

“There’s about a 20 percent chance of rejection, but in the overwhelming majority of folks, the transplanted pancreas lasts a long time and they are done taking insulin injections,” Earl told her.

“I’m the overwhelming majority!” Smith told him.

As Smith, Gillespie and Robbins waited for word from Earl on the pancreas’ viability, they shared a laugh over memories of Smith owning a cupcake store in the face of diabetes. And, they somberly contemplated the fact that because someone died, Smith could have a better and longer life.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Robbins said. “You know someone’s going to be giving us the greatest gift.”

“If I can just have five more years ….” Smith said, willing back her tears. “I just need a little more time.”

When they thought a transplant was imminent a week earlier, Gillespie said, “I felt elation, and then did a lot of praying.

“Often times with a transplant, if it’s an unexpected death, it gives a donor family a feeling of closure – that it wasn’t all for nothing,” said Gillespie, who spent many years as an emergency room and recovery nurse.

Earl sent Smith home just five days after she got her new pancreas.

“Everything’s a miracle,” said Smith, who wants to help people understand the importance of organ donation. “When I woke up from surgery, I didn’t have diabetes. Now I can see shapes and some other things out of my right eye. I’ve never had this many normal blood sugars this many days in a row.

“I cannot imagine having anyone else in charge,” she said of Earl. “He has given me quality of life back.”

Said Earl: “She’s not just recovering from surgery. She’s recovering from years of diabetes. But with her energy level and the rate she is recovering, we’re going to have to slow her down, rather than tell her she needs to get moving and start living life.”

He and his staff are watching Smith carefully, taking frequent bloodwork and making sure she regularly checks her blood sugar. “That is one of our best markers for pancreatic function,” he said.

As Smith’s recovery continues, Earl said, so does her prospect of a long and healthy life.

“I want her to get 20 more years completely free of diabetes. That’s the whole point. If this wasn’t the point, it wouldn’t be worth the risk,” he said.

“My hope is that she goes on to die of something else as a very old lady.”