University Initiative Funding Research to Solve Statewide Issues

Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation awards $17,000 in grants

Members of a research team collect water samples in Jackson, where the University of Mississippi’s Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation is funding a grant to explore the link between water quality and health. Photo by Kristie Willett/UM School of Pharmacy

OXFORD, Miss. – Less than a year since its launch, the University of Mississippi‘s Flagship Constellations initiative is already benefiting Mississippi, with four seed grants recently awarded to research teams within the Community Wellbeing constellation.

The grants, which total $17,200, fund a range of research that affects Mississippi, from uncovering the link between water quality and health in Jackson to identifying key barriers to political empowerment and participation in the state. The research teams consist of faculty, staff and students from UM Oxford and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The Flagship Constellations initiative was unveiled in November 2017 as a collaborative effort among faculty, staff and students to explore and solve complex issues through the diversity of ideas. The initiative includes multidisciplinary teams working to find solutions to grand challenges in the areas of big data, brain wellness, community wellbeing and disaster resilience.

With communities representing both rural and urban settings facing increasing challenges in areas such as personal health and housing and infrastructure, the Community Wellbeing constellation’s research teams and programs work within communities to identify factors impairing their well-being and deploy new programs and practices to build stronger, more vibrant communities.

“Grand challenges will require new and innovative partnerships,” said John Green, constellation team leader, professor of sociology and director of the UM Center for Population Studies. “In that spirit, for the seed grants, we required that applicants include investigators from at least two different departments to be eligible, and we strongly encouraged collaboration linking UM with UMMC.

“Applications were also scored based on their contributions to scholarship and to addressing needs in Mississippi communities.”

Fourteen different units at UM and UMMC are represented among the four awardees. The grants are supported by a $1 million donation to the Flagship Constellations by Thomas and Jim Duff, who created the Ernest R. Duff Flagship Constellation Fund in honor of their father.

“The Flagship Constellations is a significant initiative at the university that seeks to tie together broad expertise that exists at UM around grand-challenge issues facing society,” said Josh Gladden, vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs at UM.

“Such challenges are inherently multidimensional, and comprehensive research universities are uniquely suited to address them. We are so thankful to the Duff family whose gift was critical for getting this important initiative off the ground and enabling UM researchers to develop practical solutions in these areas.”

The awardees are:

  • Community Political Empowerment Assessment Project: This project uses fuzzy cognitive mapping and community focus groups to identify the key barriers to political empowerment and participation, as well as identifying resources for overcoming those barriers. This information will be used to work with local stakeholders to hold informational sessions around barriers and develop a voter empowerment brief to inform local, state and national leadership on issues being faced by these rural, marginalized communities.
  • Helping Communities Uncover the Link between Water Quality and Health in Jackson, Mississippi: This award supports the efforts of the Jackson Water Coalition to improve water quality and infrastructure in Jackson. The project team is working on an information briefing for the coalition that provides an overview of the connections between water quality and health and infrastructure challenges. The team also is partnering with the coalition and other stakeholders to organize a series of drinking water and water body sampling events.
  • Learning about HIV Risk and Resilience among African-American Adolescents through Storytelling: This project is identifying barriers and inroads to HIV prevention among African-American adolescents. An interdisciplinary health communication class in spring 2019, created through the university’s new MPartner program, will assist the team in facilitating expressive writing, creative role play and a series of peer-led focus groups in Charleston. Findings will inform an AIDS prevention agenda for the Mississippi Delta, including a culturally sensitive information campaign and behavioral intervention opportunities within the faith community.
  • Student-Centered Outcomes Research Experience, or SCORE – Pilot: Project SCORE is engaging Mississippi high school students from communities with significant health disparities in the development of relevant health behavior research questions by partnering with graduate students in the health sciences to train them in basic research methodology. The project is aiding the development of student-conducted research projects to explore student-driven research questions related to health behavior and develop a student-centered prevention and wellness research agenda to address student-identified needs.

“We were looking for proposals that were scientifically sound, demonstrated a broad collaborative team membership, (encouraged) engagement from nonuniversity partners and that could be leveraged into larger project proposals in the future,” said Meagen Rosenthal, constellation team leader and assistant professor of pharmacy administration.

Besides Green and Rosenthal, other Community Wellbeing team leaders are Seena Haines, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice; and Dr. Joshua Mann, professor and chair of UMMC’s Department of Preventive Medicine.

The constellation team leaders recently announced a second call for seed-funding proposals for fall 2018, with roughly $20,000 available for awards. These awards will be selected in early 2019.

For additional information, visit http://flagshipconstellations.olemiss.edu/community-wellbeing/.

UM External Research Funding Surpasses $134 Million in 2017-18

Money funds projects that assist state, country and world

OXFORD, Miss. and JACKSON, Miss. – External funding for research at the University of Mississippi reached its highest level in four years in 2017-18, with more than $134 million in funding awarded.

A total of $134,735,332 in external funding was awarded to the Oxford campus and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, with research dollars being used to favorably impact lives in Mississippi and around the globe, fuel economic growth and prosperity, educate future leaders and innovators, and more.

The external funding amount for fiscal year 2018, which ended June 30, is the highest since 2014 and an increase of 9.3 percent from last year.

“The gains in external funding speak to the stellar research talent and culture at the University of Mississippi,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “They also reflect our continuing commitment to produce scientific discoveries and innovations that enhance quality of life and benefit the citizens of our state and society at large.”

For fiscal year 2018, the university’s Oxford and Medical Center campuses received 581 awards. Examples of these awards include helping fund the data analytics graduate programs at the Patterson School of Accountancy, researching solar energy technologies, investigating the safety of antimalarial drug products and exploring solutions to improve the health and development outcomes for Mississippi children.

On the Oxford campus, awards to faculty and staff resulted in more than $71 million in external funding. The amount is the highest since 2010-11, when the campus received $78.8 million in external funding, an increase of 23 percent from 2016-17.

“The impact of UM research continues to grow, and that is reflected in increased success by our faculty, researchers and research centers on the national level,” said Josh Gladden, vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs on the Oxford campus. “External funding for research and scholarly activity is extremely competitive, which makes this increase even more notable.”

The UM Medical Center received more than $63.6 million in external funding in 2017-18.

“Research is the lifeblood of our institution,” said Dr. Richard Summers, UMMC associate vice chancellor for research. “When the research mission is strong, we are able to help our education and health care missions succeed.”

In 2017-18, federal funding at both campuses included 387 awards for more than $101.5 million. The awards, agency and funding include:

  • 175 awards from the National Institutes of Health for $42.8 million
  • 35 awards from the U.S. Department of Defense for $13 million
  • 19 awards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for $11.9 million
  • 32 awards from the Health Resources and Services Administration for $8.8 million
  • 31 awards from the National Science Foundation for $6.9 million
  • 26 awards from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for $5.7 million
  • 10 awards from NASA for $2.7 million.

Awards from corporate, private, state and other sources funded more than $33.1 million during 2017-18. Foundations and nonprofit groups provided $18.7 in funding, private or corporate business and industry provided $8.4 million, and state agencies in Mississippi provided $5.7 million. All other sources were almost $300,000.

The School of Pharmacy on the Oxford campus received 62 awards for $16.7 million. Both were the most for any unit on the Oxford campus.

According to the 2017 Faculty Research Grant Institutional Rankings published by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the UM School of Pharmacy ranked 13th in the nation for external research funding.

“The investigators at the School of Pharmacy have worked tirelessly to secure funding for projects that have the potential to impact the health of millions of people,” said David D. Allen, dean of the school. “This is truly a whole-school effort, as our faculty, research scientists, staff and students are all integral to our research mission.”

The pharmacy school has several grants investigating aspects of opioid use, including a study on long-term opioid use in older adults, led by principal investigator Yi Yang, professor of pharmacy administration. Older adults are more likely to have chronic pain and to be taking more than one medication, putting them at higher risk of harmful drug combinations.

“Our scientists and faculty are taking on the opioid epidemic from all sides, and this study aims to uncover the impact of sustained opioid therapy in older adults,” Allen said. “The elderly are just as vulnerable to the negative effects of opioid use as younger adults, but they aren’t studied as frequently.”

The School of Medicine at UMMC totaled 267 awards for $54.9 million, the most on that campus.

The top-funded units at UMMC were the departments of Physiology and Biophysics, Cell and Molecular Biology, Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Biomedical Materials Science, and the John D. Bower School of Population Health.

University Endowment Builds to All-time High of $715 Million

Strong investment returns, generosity of alumni and friends spurs growth

The University of Mississippi’s permanent endowment grew in its latest fiscal year to an all-time high, thanks to generous support from private donors. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s permanent endowment grew in its latest fiscal year to an all-time high of $715 million, thanks in part to the seventh consecutive year of new gifts of $100 million or more.

Private support totaled more than $115.8 million from 30,332 donors, giving the university essential resources to continue providing exceptional experiences for students, faculty, researchers, health care patients and providers, citizens served by outreach efforts, and visitors to all its campuses.

“Private investments are essential to fuel the work of our flagship university,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

“The generosity of our alumni and friends ensures the university has resources needed to sustain and expand nationally prominent programs, and it enables us to deliver on our Flagship Forward strategic plan to improve learning, health and the quality of life in Mississippi. We remain grateful and inspired by their support.”

Total private giving to the Oxford campus grew by 6.5 percent over the previous year. Private support for academics increased more than 10 percent. 

Eighty-seven percent of the private giving will provide current funding for donor-directed areas or directly affect those areas, while the remaining 13 percent was added to the university’s endowment, which also grew through returns on its investment strategies.

State support as a percentage of total revenues available for the university’s operations was 12.4 percent, making private support all the more crucial.

“Ole Miss alumni and friends are making major investments that transform students’ lives and continually enhance the quality of our programs,” said Charlotte Parks, vice chancellor for development. “Gifts to higher education also have a far-reaching impact on the economy of Mississippi and beyond, and the resources ultimately improve the quality of life for everyone.”

Healthy growth of the university’s endowment reflected the increase in funds invested and managed for the university, said Wendell Weakley, president and CEO of the UM Foundation. The endowment benefited from a 10 percent return on its investments.

Private giving helps UM maintain margins of excellence in a range of fields across all its campuses. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“The endowment has now reached the historic high of $715 million, and we are on our way to realizing our long-range goal of a $1 billion endowment,” Weakley said. “We are extremely grateful to our donors who provide this permanent stable funding that can be counted on year after year and will advance the university’s mission for generations to come.”

Some of the largest gifts included: $5 million for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College; $4.25 million for several programs including Bridge STEM, Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Initiative, College Ready Literacy, Center for Mathematics and Science Education, First Generation Scholars, Principal Corps, Upstart in the School of Dentistry and more; $4 million for new endowed chairs in geriatrics and palliative care at the Medical Center; $2 million for the College of Liberal Arts‘ departments of mathematics and sciences; $2 million for professorships in surgery and pulmonology at the Medical Center; $1.5 million for expansion of pediatric care at the Medical Center; and gifts of $1 million or more for a faculty chair in the Patterson School of Accountancy, the Flagship Constellations, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Forward Together campaign for Ole Miss athletics.

Likewise, the Medical Center’s Campaign for Children’s Hospital campaign enjoyed a third successful year with $10 million raised, which brings the total giving in the campaign to more than $66 million toward its ambitious $100 million goal. This campaign supports the construction and renovation of facilities and recruitment of 30-40 doctors and researchers.

Work has begun on a new seven-story, 340,000-square-foot tower adjacent to Batson Children’s Hospital that will also house the Children’s Heart Center.

Gifts to the campaign represent “an outpouring of love and support that runs deep and wide across all of Mississippi,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “We have outstanding physicians and the best staff, and they have a passion for caring for patients. What we need now are the facilities to match that quality of care.”

Financial resources provided by alumni and friends of the university ensure students will have the tools necessary to be successful. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Ole Miss athletics also enjoyed a successful FY 2018 both on the field and in investments made by alumni and friends. Cash gifts exceeded $30 million for the fourth consecutive year. The Forward Together campaign stands at $176 million, with plans to complete this $200 million campaign in FY 2019.

“Rebel Nation represents one of the most loyal fan bases in college sports,” said Keith Carter, deputy athletics director for development and resource acquisition. “The support shown year in and year out allows us to enhance our facilities to help our student-athletes compete at the highest level, while also providing a high-quality experience for our fans.

“We express our thanks to loyal donors and fans, and we look forward to the upcoming year as we close out the Forward Together campaign and begin new endeavors.”

To make gifts to the university, go to https://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift/ for academics, https://www.umc.edu/givenow/ for the UM Medical Center or http://givetoathletics.com/forward-together/ for Ole Miss athletics.

David A. Puleo Named New Engineering Dean

Former Kentucky associate dean brings years of leadership experience, vision to position

David Puleo

OXFORD, Miss. – David A. Puleo, an administrator nationally respected for his activities in both academics and research, has been named the new dean of the School of Engineering at the University of Mississippi.

“Thanks to its leaders over the past 120 years, the (UM) school has a strong foundation, educating generations of engineers, computer scientists and geologists,” said Puleo, who assumes his duties at Ole Miss on Aug. 27. “The School of Engineering will play a key role in the university’s inspiring Flagship Forward strategic plan, and I believe my experiences at a large, public flagship university in the Southeast enable me to lead the school forward to ‘ever-increasing excellence.'”

A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, he was the associate dean for research and graduate studies at the University of Kentucky. Puleo, who was a professor in the F. Joseph Halcomb III, M.D. Department of Biomedical Engineering at UK, also founded Regenera Materials LLC, in Lexington, Kentucky.

In providing leadership for research activities, Puleo’s responsibilities included approval of all proposal submissions, oversight of College of Engineering centers and institutes, management of facilities and cultivation of research partnerships with academic and nonacademic units. Related to graduate programs, Puleo supervised academic policy development and implementation, new course and program development, graduate student recruitment in partnership with UK’s Graduate Studies Team, selection and awarding of College of Engineering graduate student fellowships and graduate program assessment.

“Our School of Engineering remains an integral component of academic excellence and scholarship at the University of Mississippi,” said Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “David Puleo’s direction will enhance our already strong and competitive position among institutions of higher learning around the country and beyond its borders.”

Puleo’s plans are to immerse himself in the culture of Ole Miss and the engineering school. This exercise will set the stage for drafting a strategic plan for the school using a “collaborative visioning” approach that involves stakeholders from all constituencies.

“A key strength of the school is the broad-based and ‘high-touch’ approach to undergraduate education,” Puleo said. “We must maintain that quality of educating the next generations of engineers, computer scientists and geologists while also expanding our graduate programs and the highly-related research enterprise.

“The close proximity of multiple other schools, as well as the not-too-distant UM Medical Center, provide outstanding transdisciplinary educational and research opportunities.”

The new dean’s track record includes being a fellow in the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. A member of the Advisory Board for Viking Scientific Inc., Puleo received UK’s Excellence in Teaching in 2011, 2013 and 2015 and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research in 2013.

During his 20-year tenure at UK, Puleo also served as assistant and associate professor of biomedical engineering, adjunct associate professor in the College of Dentistry and professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery for Content Management, both in the College of Medicine at the UK Medical Center. He also served as director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering before becoming chair after its conversion to a department.

Puleo and his wife, Sue, have two adult children, Nick and Angie, who are in medical school and college, respectively.

For more information about the UM School of Engineering, visit https://engineering.olemiss.edu/.

Four UM Students Accepted into Rural Physician Scholarship Program

Scholars agree to serve in small Mississippi communities after graduation

University of Mississippi students (from left) Steven Smith, Katelynn McGowen, Conner Ball and Megan Buchanan have been selected to participate in the undergraduate portion of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program. Submitted photo

JACKSON, Miss. – University of Mississippi seniors Conner Ball, Megan Buchanan and Steven Smith, and junior Katelynn McGowen, have been selected to participate in the undergraduate portion of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program.

Ball is the son of Janyce and Scott Ball, of Madison. Buchanan is the daughter of Terri Buchanan, of Collinsville. Smith is the son of Brian and Denise Smith, of Terry. McGowen is the daughter of Hugh and Robin McGowen, of Moselle.

Created in 2007, Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program identifies college sophomores and juniors who demonstrate the necessary commitment and academic achievement to become rural primary care physicians in the state. The program offers undergraduate academic enrichment and a clinical experience in a rural setting.

Upon completion of all medical school admissions requirements, the student can be admitted to the UM School of Medicine or William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

During medical school, each Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program scholar is under consideration for $30,000 per year, based on available funding. Consistent legislative support of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program translates to 60 medical students receiving $1.8 million to support their education this fall.

Additional benefits include personalized mentoring from practicing rural physicians and academic support. 

Upon completion of medical training, the scholars must enter a residency program in one of five primary care specialties: family medicine, general internal medicine, medicine-pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology or pediatrics. The program scholar must provide four years of service in a clinic-based practice in an approved Mississippi community of 15,000 or fewer population located more than 20 miles from a medically served area.

The Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program provides a means for rural Mississippi students to earn a seat in medical school, receive Medical College Admission Test preparation, earn a $120,000 medical school scholarship in return for four years of service and learn the art of healing from practicing rural physicians.

For more information, contact Dan Coleman, MRPSP associate director, at 601-815-9022, jdcoleman@umc.edu or http://mrpsp.umc.edu.

Coker Accepted into Rural Dental Scholarship Program

UM student selected for prestigious academic opportunity

Kaitlin Coker

JACKSON, Miss – Kaitlin Coker, a recent graduate of Northwest Mississippi Community College and a junior at the University of Mississippi, has been selected to participate in the undergraduate portion of the Mississippi Rural Dentists Scholarship Program.

She is the daughter of Tray and Stephanie Coker, of Charleston.

Created in 2013 by the Mississippi Legislature, the Mississippi Rural Dentists Scholarship Program identifies up to seven college sophomores and juniors who demonstrate the necessary commitment and academic achievement to become rural pediatric or general dentists in the state. The program offers two years of undergraduate academic enrichment, including Dental Admission Test preparation and clinical experience in a rural setting.

Upon completion of all dental admissions requirements, the student can be admitted to the UM School of Dentistry.

During dental school, each MRDSP scholar may receive $35,000 per year, based on available funding. The program will award nine scholarships in 2018-19, totaling $315,000. With continued legislative support, administrators hope to grow the program to 12 scholarship totaling $420,000 by 2019.

Additional benefits include personalized mentoring from practicing rural dentists and academic support. 

After completing dental school, the scholars must practice general or pediatric dentistry in a rural, medically underserved community. The program scholar must provide dental services in a full-time clinical practice in an approved Mississippi community of 10,000 or fewer population located more than 20 miles from a medically served area.

The program provides a means for rural Mississippi students to receive Dental Admission Test preparation, benefit from mentoring, learn the art of oral health care from practicing rural dentists and earn a $140,000 dental school scholarship in return for four years of service.

For more information, contact Dan Coleman, MRDSP associate director, at 601-815-9022 or  jdcoleman@umc.edu, or go to http://www.umc.edu/mrdsp.

Three Graduates Receive Rural Physician Scholarships

Funding supports medical training at UM School of Medicine

Three recent graduates of the University of Mississippi (from left), Cal Wilkerson, Alison Redding and Kaleb Barnes, have been awarded Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarships. Submitted photo

JACKSON, Miss. – Three recent graduates of the University of Mississippi have been awarded Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarships valued at $30,000 per year for their medical training at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in Jackson.

Cal Wilkerson, Alison Redding and Kaleb Barnes were honored at the annual ceremony for the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program.

Wilkerson is the son of Mr. and Mrs. David Wilkerson, of Woodville. Redding is the daughter of James and Carolyn Cegielski, of Laurel. Barnes is the son of Rodney and Melissa Barnes, of Booneville.

Created in 2007, the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program is designed to provide more primary care physicians in rural areas of Mississippi. During medical school, each scholar receives $30,000 per year, based on available funding. Consistent legislative support of the scholarship program translates to 60 medical students receiving $1.8 million to support their education this fall.

“The Mississippi Legislature celebrates with these Mississippians from across the state in their commitment to improving health care for rural Mississippians by becoming rural primary care physicians,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Buck Clarke said.

Besides the legislative support, three privately funded scholarships were also awarded this year.

Other benefits include personalized mentoring from practicing rural physicians and academic support. 

Upon completion of medical training, the scholars must enter a residency program in one of five primary care specialties: family medicine, general internal medicine, medicine-pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology or pediatrics. The scholar must provide four years of service in a clinic-based practice in an approved Mississippi community of 20,000 or fewer population located more than 20 miles from a medically served area.

The Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program provides a means for rural Mississippi students to earn a seat in medical school and to earn a $120,000 medical school scholarship in return for four years of service and learn the art of healing from practicing rural physicians.

For more information, contact Dan Coleman, MRPSP associate director, at 601-815-9022, jdcoleman@umc.du or http://mrpsp.umc.edu.

Pharmacy Professor Selected for Nelson Order

Scott Malinowski was one of 20 inductees chosen for the UMMC honor

Scott Malinowski (left), clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice, is welcomed into the Nelson Order by Rob Rockhold, deputy chief academic officer at the UM Medical Center, during ceremonies at the medical center. Photo by Joe Ellis/UMMC Photography

JACKSON, Miss. – Scott Malinowski, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, has been inducted into the Norman C. Nelson Order of Teaching Excellence at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

Named for Norman C. Nelson, who served as UMMC’s vice chancellor for health affairs for 21 years, the award honors faculty members from each of UMMC’s six schools. Awardees are selected based on their dedication to students through innovative teaching, engagement, mentorship and setting expectations for professional behavior.

 “This is truly a great honor,” Malinowski said. “It is very special to be selected by students and colleagues in recognition of my teaching contributions.

“The existence of the Nelson Order shows just how committed the Medical Center is to teaching excellence. I am proud to be considered one of its members.”

Nominees for the Nelson Order were inducted at a luncheon where each received a stole from LouAnn Woodward, UM vice chancellor for health affairs, that they will wear Friday (May 25) during the Medical Center’s commencement ceremony.

“This is a significant achievement and well-deserved recognition of Dr. Malinowski’s many contributions to education on the UMMC campus,” said Seena Haines, chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice. “He has demonstrated commitment to excellence in teaching and engaging students and residents in their clinical and professional growth.”

Leigh Ann Ross, associate dean for clinical affairs at the pharmacy school’s UMMC campus, said she is “thrilled” about Malinowski’s induction.

“In all practice environments, he has precepted pharmacy students and served as a role model,” Ross said. “Scott provides quality educational opportunities for our students by leading courses and serving as a facilitator in our problem-based learning curriculum.”

Ross went on to say that Malinowski’s long-term involvement in heart failure management in the ambulatory clinic, providing nutrition support in the inpatient setting and participating in the Community-Based Research Program shows his desire for student success.

“I am passionate about teaching because I enjoy helping students realize that they can successfully learn this vast amount of material that they are confronted with and use it to help others,” Malinowski said. “It is amazing to watch them grow into confident health care professionals.”

Crowdfunding Effort Aims to Offer Music as Medicine

Columns Society campaign focuses on pediatric health care

Batson Children’s Hospital School teacher Allyn Self works with patient Colin Henderson of Brandon. Photo courtesy UMMC

OXFORD, Miss. – Organizers of an online crowdfunding campaign want to supplement medicine with music for young patients being treated at Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

Members of the Columns Society, a group of UM students who serve as the university’s official hosts and hostesses, have created an Ignite Ole Miss campaign, hoping to raise $1,400 to cover the cost of Rhythm Pax gifts for children undergoing treatment at Batson.

A Rhythm Pax is a canvas sack filled with age-appropriate percussion instruments and other music-related items. The proposed gifts include a kalimba, a thumb piano; sound shapes; rain sticks; bells; triangles; hand bells; a Blue Man Group/”Stomp” DVD; finger drum; an iTunes gift card; and more.

“The therapeutic benefits provided by music are endless and allow families to cope and be together while creating and enjoying the gift of music,” said Ingrid Valbuena Alcina, philanthropy chair of the Columns Society and a senior majoring in integrated marketing communications.

Though acknowledging the role of music in addressing illness is not new, recent research is illuminating how music affects the brain and other body systems in a measurable way. Using that knowledge, practitioners can now integrate music with medicine to augment healing.

Leading the research in this area is the Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine in Baltimore.

“It’s fascinating and powerful to think that music, something that has been floating around in our environment forever – that this natural, omnipresent human activity has demonstrable benefit as treatment,” said Sara Hoover, the center’s co-director.

Batson Children’s Hospital is the only medical facility in Mississippi devoted exclusively to the care and treatment of sick and injured children and adolescents. The hospital averages 9,000 admissions a year and nearly 80,000 children are treated in its clinics and emergency room annually.

Patients come from all of Mississippi’s 82 counties to receive comprehensive medical care for everything from common childhood illnesses to serious trauma and life-threatening or chronic illnesses.

Batson Hospital provides care in more than 30 specialty areas, including newborn medicine, pediatric cardiology, neurology and surgery. It houses the state’s only pediatric intensive care unit and emergency department along with Mississippi’s only pediatric treatment programs for cancer, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, congenital heart defects and more.

Ground has been broken on a $180 million new pediatrics tower adjacent to Batson Children’s Hospital, further expanding top-tier medical care for Mississippi’s youngest citizens.

To join the Columns Society’s effort to provide Rhythm Pax to hospitalized children, click here to visit the campaign’s Ignite Ole Miss page.

Dual-Campus Research Day Fosters Collaborative Science

Researchers from Oxford and Jackson share ideas, results

Caroline Canarios of the Center for Population Studies talks with Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (left) and Josh Gladden, UM vice chancellor for research, about the ‘Right! from the Start’ breastfeeding program, which includes investigators from the Oxford and Medical Center campuses. UMMC Public Affairs photo

JACKSON, Miss. – Members of the Jackson and Oxford research communities gathered April 4 for the fourth annual UM/UMMC Research Day in the Norman C. Nelson Student Union at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Research Day, held in alternating years at University of Mississippi’s Oxford and Medical Center campuses, is an opportunity for members of the university community to learn more about the scientific and scholarly research being conducted on both campuses. More than 150 attendees learned about the work of more than 80 faculty, administrators and trainees, ranging from artificial neural networks to health in Zambia.

“Research is the glue that holds our university’s missions together,” said Dr. Richard Summers, UMMC associate vice chancellor for research. Without the new knowledge generated by research, advances in education, health care and service would stall.

“The future is in our hands,” Summers said.

“I cannot overstate my confidence that we, as an institution, will continue to grow,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

The day’s presentations took the form of three-minute lectures, poster sessions and keynote addresses. Some presenters discussed their resources and results, inviting new partners to join in their work.

“How can we more actively treat patients, as opposed to seeing them in a doctor’s office every three to six months?” asked Kourtland Adams, nurse manager for the UMMC Center of Telehealth. His lecture discussed the potential of remote patient monitoring for managing chronic health conditions.

After providing patients in Sunflower County with digital monitors for daily check-ins, Telehealth’s diabetes project observed a decreased HbA1c after three months, he said.

Others arrived at Research Day with explicit requests for help.

“I came here looking for a medical physicist, and my presentation happens to follow one,” said Dwight Waddell, UM associate professor of electrical engineering.

Jeremiah Blough (left), a graduate student in the School of Applied Sciences, discusses his research with Jeremiah Reese, a first-year medical student, during a poster session. UMMC Public Affairs photo

Waddell, director of the new undergraduate biomedical engineering program, shared his “first-world” problem: lots of qualified students, but not enough research opportunities for them in Oxford alone. What better place to find potential mentors than the Medical Center, he said.

This year’s Research Day also included a forum on the Flagship Constellations, an initiative formalized in November 2017 to cluster research teams around broad challenges. Co-leaders from the Big Data, Brain Wellness, Community Wellbeing and Disaster Resilience constellations updated attendees on plans for cross-disciplinary work.

Nowadays, research requires this kind of collaborative approach. The image of a solo scientist bent over a lab bench is faded and outdated.

“One thing we have learned about research is that no man or woman is an island,” Summers said. “We need to leverage our strengths to make progress.”

“There’s no more low-hanging fruit in research,” said Josh Gladden, UM vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “We are now looking at complex, multidimensional problems that require a multidisciplinary approach.”

Gladden illustrated the importance of forums such as Research Day with a story about a meeting between UMMC clinicians and Ole Miss acoustic researchers that occurred a few years ago. He saw an engineer and a neurosurgeon “huddled at a table drawing on a napkin,” he said, sketching out an idea for a device.

That kind of informal brainstorming can be the start of great ideas and partnerships, he said. With that, he encouraged Research Day attendees to find their own tables.

“We have plenty of napkins,” he said.