Monthly archives: March, 2016

UIC Engage Brings Tutors to CPS Schools, Churches

Students across UIC’s 15 colleges are volunteering after-school hours to teach math and writing to elementary students in neighborhoods near campus as part of a one-semester pilot program called UIC ENGAGE.

More about UIC Engage can be found here.

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Elderly Unknowingly Using Dangerous Combinations of Drugs and Supplements

Dima Quota -- elderly drug combinations

Dima Qato, assistant professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes and policy.

One in six older adults now regularly use potentially deadly combinations of prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements — a two-fold increase over a five-year period, according to new research at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Dima Mazen Qato, assistant professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes and policy, and her colleagues examined changes in medication use in a nationally representative sample of older adults between the ages of 62 and 85. In contrast to many existing studies of medication use by the elderly, these investigators conducted in-home interviews to accurately identify what people were actually taking.

According to the study, older adults using at least five prescription medications (a status known as polypharmacy) rose from 30.6 percent in 2005 to 35.8 percent in 2011.

Factors that may account for the rise include the implementation of Medicare Part D, changes in treatment guidelines, and the increased availability of generics for many commonly used drugs.

As an example, the use of simvastatin (Zocor) — the most commonly used prescription medication in the older adult population, which became available as a generic in 2006 — doubled from 10.3 percent to 22.5 percent, Qato said. Zocor is used to treat high cholesterol and may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Despite limited evidence of their clinical benefit, dietary supplements are being used by a growing number of older individuals, the study found — an increase from 51.8 percent to 63.7 percent over the same time period, with nearly a 50 percent growth in the number of people using multiple supplements. The largest increase was found in the use of omega-3 fish oils — a dietary supplement with limited evidence of cardiovascular benefits — which rose from 4.7 percent of people surveyed in 2005 to 18.6 percent in 2011.

Fifteen potentially life-threatening drug combinations of the most commonly used medications and supplements in the study were also identified. Nearly 15 percent of older adults regularly used at least one of these dangerous drug combinations in 2011, compared to 8 percent in 2005.

More than half of the potential interactions involved a nonprescription medication or dietary supplement, Qato said. Preventative cardiovascular medications such as statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs, particularly simvastatin), anti-platelet drugs (such as clopidogrel and aspirin, used to prevent blood clots), and supplements (specifically omega-3 fish oil) accounted for the vast majority of these interacting drug combinations.

Cardiovascular prevention efforts and treatment guidelines promoting primary prevention may be undermined by these interactions, Qato said.

“Many older patients seeking to improve their cardiovascular health are also regularly using interacting drug combinations that may worsen cardiovascular risk,” she said. “For example, the use of clopidogrel in combination with the proton-pump inhibitor omeprazole, aspirin, or naproxen — all over-the-counter medications — is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks, bleeding complications, or death. However, about 1.8 percent — or 1 million — older adults regularly use clopidogrel in interacting combinations.”

Health care professionals should carefully consider the adverse effects of commonly used prescription and nonprescription medication combinations when treating older adults, Qato said, and counsel patients about the risks. “Improving safety in the use of interacting medication combinations has the potential to reduce preventable, potentially fatal, adverse drug events,” she said.

While it is not known how many older adults in the U.S. die of drug interactions, Qato said, “the risk seems to be growing, and public awareness is lacking.”

Co-authors of the research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, are Jocelyn Wilder of UIC; L. Philip Schumm and Victoria Gillet of the University of Chicago; and Dr. G. Caleb Alexander of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

The National Social Life, Health and Aging Project is supported by grants R01AG021487 and R01AG033903 from the National Institutes of Health, including the National Institutes on Aging, the Office of Women’s Health Research, the Office of AIDS Research, and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.

DuSable Museum Granted Smithsonian Status

DuSable Museum

The Dusable Museum of African American History is located in Washington Park at 740 East 56th Place, in Chicago.

The DuSable Museum of African American History has been granted Smithsonian Affiliation status by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The distinction signals the beginning of a long-term collaborative partnership between the DuSable and the world’s largest museum and research complex.

The DuSable, established in 1961, is only the second arts, culture and education facility in Chicago to receive Smithsonian Affiliate status; the other is Adler Planetarium. The Smithsonian established Affiliations in 1996 to increase discovery and promote lifelong learners by bringing the Smithsonian Institution to local communities. There are more than 200 Smithsonian Affiliate organizations in more than 45 states, Puerto Rico and Panama. Now, with DuSable, there are six Affiliates in Illinois.

The partnership permits DuSable to borrow Smithsonian artifacts and access traveling exhibits. Similarly, the Smithsonian will gain access to rarely seen paintings, sculptures and more that comprise DuSable’s collections.

“With Affiliate status, the DuSable will bring the Smithsonian to the community and the DuSable to the world,” said DuSable President and CEO Perri Irmer. “The partnership will also expose the museum’s Masterworks Collection to a broader audience by giving the work and the artists international exposure.”

The DuSable debuted its new Masterworks Gallery in February. The museum increased its membership by 48 percent during a recent membership drive. As a Smithsonian Affiliate, the DuSable may offer Smithsonian membership at a discount to its members. “Now members of the DuSable Museum will gain access to more than 200 institutions worldwide,” Irmer said.

Smithsonian Affiliate organizations work together to preserve heritage, expand knowledge and inspire learning. They vary from science centers, art museums, historical societies, universities, children’s museums, archives and libraries, and aquaria.

As a Smithsonian Affiliate, the DuSable may participate in the annual Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference in Washington. Affiliates are also provided opportunities for more in-depth collaboration and influences over Smithsonian initiatives through programs funded by Smithsonian internal grant competitions.

About Smithsonian Affiliations

Established in 1996, Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums, educational and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. The long-term goal of Smithsonian Affiliations is to facilitate a two-way relationship among Affiliate organizations and the Smithsonian to increase discovery and inspire lifelong learning in communities across America. Affiliations share exhibits and collections, collaborate on important research projects, and develop innovative educational strategies at local and national levels.

More information about Smithsonian Affiliations is available at

For more information on the DuSable museum and its programs, call (773) 947-0600 or visit us at


Tiny Sensors Measure Air Quality Anywhere in the Community, at Work

Air quality sensor professors

UIC researcher Igor Paprotny (second from left), with research assistants (from left) Omid Mahdavipour, John Sabino and Dorsa Fahimi, displays the particulate-matter sensor.

Researchers in the College of Engineering and School of Public Health are collaborating on a project that can help crowd-source pollution data and make it easier to measure air quality.

Igor Paprotny, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Lisa Brosseau, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences, are working together to maximize the impact tiny sensors developed in Paprotny’s lab could have in the community and workplace.

Chicago has one of the highest asthma mortality rates in the U.S., and the incidence in children varies widely from one Chicago community to the next. But why?

It may relate to neighborhood air quality.

Paprotny plans to use the city as his laboratory and enlist community citizen-scientists to gather data with miniature personal sensors his research team is developing.

Paprotny leads the Air-Microfluidics Group, a research consortium that includes UIC, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, the University of California-Berkeley and a scientist from the U.S. EPA. The team is developing a particulate-matter sensor the size of a memory stick that could be connected to a cellphone to measure and transmit the wearer’s exposure in real time.

Instrumentation currently used to measure particulate air pollution “is about the size of a toaster or a desktop computer,” Paprotny said.

air sensor

Paprotny’s team is developing a sensor the size of a memory stick that could be connected to a cellphone to measure and transmit the wearer’s exposure to hazards in the air.

Particulate air pollution consists of tiny particles and droplets of acids, organic chemicals, metals, soil or dust. The size of the particles is linked to their potential for causing health problems, according to the EPA, and smaller is worse. Particles under 10 microns — about one-eighth the width of a human hair — can pass through the throat, enter the lungs and cause serious adverse health effects.


When particles get really small — below 2.5 microns — “they are even more dangerous,” Paprotny said.

“They get very deep into our lungs, and we really don’t have a natural way to get rid of them,” he said. “Our immune system cannot handle them because they are too big, but they are still small enough to enter deep into our respiratory system.”

The EPA has lowered the allowable exposure limit several times, but more data is needed.

The sensor that the consortium is developing will offer not just portability, but improved accuracy and lower cost.

“Our sensor is currently the only miniature sensor that actually weighs the particles and reports the concentration as a mass,” Paprotny said.

The devices are projected to cost about $20 each to manufacture in quantity — and many will be needed.

“We’re in discussions to potentially work with Chicago environmental organizations and hope eventually to recruit citizen-scientists to wear the sensors,” Paprotny said. “With mobile sensors across the city, we can build a map of pollution and gather data.”


Industrial hygienist Lisa Brosseau says the tiny sensors could “revolutionize” her field.

Brosseau, an industrial hygienist, said Paprotny’s sensors could “revolutionize” her field, which involves recognizing and controlling exposure to hazardous materials in the workplace.

In the past, workplace hazards were measured through a cumbersome device worn by the user. Then, the data needed to be analyzed manually.

“The microsensors that Igor and others are working on are really exciting because they’re tiny and have a built-in pump so you don’t need all of the paraphernalia that you used to,” Brosseau said. “You can just stick it to your lapel.”

Brosseau suggested creating wearable sensors, such as adding them to necklaces or earrings.

These sensors capture data immediately, she said.

“It contributes to the idea of citizen science,” she said. “We can potentially give tools to people in the workplace and tell them — with immediate feedback — what they’re exposed to. They don’t have to wait two weeks to have results.”

With faster results, researchers can investigate the connection between particulate exposure and health effects by collecting data on blood pressure, symptoms and more.

“It’s immediate epidemiology,” Brosseau said. “That would really revolutionize our world.”

The sensor could help individuals make healthy choices, Paprotny said.

“A portable sensor attached to a cellphone could enable all of us to scan the air around us and determine if it’s safe to go out,” he said. “We expect air around us to be clean, and it is not always the case.”


— Christy Levy contributed to this report

Examining The Psychology Behind Partisan Politics


One aspect of Matt Motyl’s research is whether conservatives or liberals are happier. “Conservatives report, but liberals display, greater happiness,” says Motyl, assistant professor of psychology. Photo: Jenny Fontaine

Forget red and blue states, says Matt Motyl. Think red and blue neighborhoods instead.

“People are disproportionately likely to move to another neighborhood to find people who share their values,” said Motyl, an assistant professor of psychology. “So you find red and blue communities.”

He reported that finding for a Salon piece and a book chapter titled “Liberals and conservatives are geographically dividing” in the forthcoming Bridging Ideological Divides.

Speaking of red and blue, Motyl, who is in the psychology department’s social and personality area, wondered which political type more frequently gets the blues.

His answer is in a Science article he co-wrote, “Conservatives report, but liberals display, greater happiness.”

There’s a long research history of conservatives claiming they’re happier than liberals, Motyl said.

But his study of photos in the Congressional Record shows that more right-leaning congressmen flash apparently fake smiles, while liberal congressmen are more likely to display evidently genuine grins.

Also, conservatives more often use sad or negative words when speaking or writing for Twitter.

Motyl’s research was done during the Barack Obama presidency; he opines that conservatives “may be angrier or sadder because they’re not in power.”

One often hears someone say of a particular candidate, “If he wins, I’m moving to Canada.”

It’s hard to find data indicating that anyone follows through on this declaration, Motyl said. “Most people don’t move, but a lot threaten to,” he said.

Some take the threat seriously, though. He noted that Cape Breton Island in British Columbia is advertising to American tourists, “If Trump wins, we welcome you here.” Fox News dubbed it “the land of the flee.”

Research by Motyl and five colleagues showed that underlining climate change gives a boost to support for peace-making.

In Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, they argued that it’s possible “to get people to set aside their differences to work against something that affects everybody,” Motyl said.

In the case of global climate change, “that’s exactly what we found” when looking at right-wing Israelis and Palestinians living alongside them, he said.

On the other hand, he added, climate change might result in scarcer resources, with countries competing for them.

Examining such claims as “Virginia is for lovers,” Motyl and a colleague questioned whether “geographical or regional characteristics affect basic psychological processes.”

“Based on your attachment style, some places are going to be better than others,” he said.

“If everyone around you has different beliefs, why would you want to have close relationships with them?”

He made no judgment about the specific case of Virginia. “It was just a cute title,” he said of the article written for Social and Personality Psychological Science.

Pieces Motyl penned for Psychology Today and Slate had the same title: “Is Obama the Antichrist?”

The question brought to mind the period Motyl spent supervising the undergraduate honors program when he was pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.

“It’s an especially conservative area with lots of military bases, and the family of one student was military going back many generations,” he said.

Email from one of the student’s relatives cautioned her that Obama was from zip code 60606, “606” being the sign of the devil, and that Scripture warns that the Antichrist will be a person with darker skin.

Motyl is a native of St. Augustine, Florida. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, a master’s from the University of Colorado and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He came to UIC in 2014, and lives three blocks from campus.

He is a co-founder of, which he describes as “a nonprofit that tries to bring together academic research and interventions to improve political discourse.”

Reproducibility is the holy grail of research, and a piece Motyl co-authored is highly rated.

It was named No. 8 of the Top 100 Stories of 2015 by Discovery magazine; No. 6 by Science News; No. 5 in “Altimetric 100,” Nature magazine’s top science stories of 2015; and runner-up for “Breakthrough of the Year” by Science magazine.


UIC Students Awarded APIASF Scholarships

apiasf-logo-390x83The Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF) has awarded scholarships to 18 students from University of Illinois at Chicago in support of their studies during the 2016 spring semester.

APIASF is the nation’s largest non-profit provider of college scholarships for Asian American and Pacific Islander students.

The UIC students are among more than 625 undergraduates awarded APIASF’s Asian American and Pacific Islander-Serving Institution scholarships totaling more than $625,000 during the 2015-16 academic year. Awardees receive $2,500 to $5,000 to apply toward their tuition costs.

To be eligible for the award, students must be of Asian or Pacific Islander ethnicity as defined by the U.S. Census; demonstrate financial need; and be enrolled full-time as a degree-seeking student at one of 18 schools designated an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution.

UIC received the federal designation in 2010. More than 22 percent of UIC’s undergraduates identify as either Asian American or Native American Pacific Islander, and about half of its undergraduates are Pell grant recipients.

The scholarship program is supported by the Coca-Cola Foundation, Educational Testing Service, General Mills Foundation, Hilton Worldwide, Honda, USA Funds, Walmart Foundation, and Wells Fargo.

Local recipients from UIC and their hometowns are:

BERWYN – Carlo Ahumada, freshman in finance

CHICAGO – Kara Liu, undeclared junior; Mohammed Mithun, senior in nursing; Samrudhi Vaghmare, Honors College sophomore in information and decision sciences; Rabees Rafiq, senior in chemical engineering; Peniza Thapa, senior in civil engineering; Waymond Zhou, Honors College senior in biological sciences

GENEVA – Rohan Patel, Honors College senior in biochemistry

HARWOOOD HEIGHTS – Khalid Javed, senior in biological sciences

JUSTICE – Mary Chaudhry, senior in biological sciences

LAKE IN THE HILLS – Paul Lancero, junior in kinesiology

LaSALLE – Helen Klabel, Honors College senior in finance

NAPERVILLE – Sarah Lee, Honors College senior in neuroscience

PLAINFIELD – Sana Khan, senior in neuroscience

ROUND LAKE – Sarah Le, junior in psychology

SKOKIE – Krupa Shah, sophomore in chemical engineering

STREAMWOOD – Adil Siddique, Honors College junior in neuroscience; Nabeel Qureshi, senior in chemical engineering



UIC Graduate Programs Rise in National Rankings

Several colleges and specialty programs at the University of Illinois at Chicago rose significantly in the latest U.S. News & CAMP.CIRC.LG.REDWorld Report rankings of graduate schools.

The rankings are intended to help prospective professional and graduate students research academic programs at different institutions and evaluate the potential return on their investment. The 2017 edition ranks graduate programs in business, law, education, engineering, medicine and nursing, and also ranks some specialty programs within those disciplines.

One of the largest jumps for UIC was made by its college of pharmacy, which moved up eight spots to reach No. 6.

“We feel that a ranking of sixth is much more reflective of the world-class education that is available at the UIC College of Pharmacy,” said its dean, Jerry Bauman. “Between our impactful research programs, large array of innovative clinical practice experiences, and our amazing residency opportunities, there is really no other college that can match us.”

The UIC College of Education moved up two spots, to 41st, while the UIC College of Engineering rose one spot, to 60th. The UIC College of Medicine (research) improved to 47th from 49th, and UIC’s part-time MBA program that was previously ranked 109th improved to 78th.

The UIC College of Nursing ranked 23rd, and had six specialty programs ranked even higher: family nurse practitioner (7th); nursing administration (8th); midwifery (10th); gerontology nurse practitioner (10th); pediatric nurse practitioner (12th); and psychiatric nurse practitioner (13th).

Two programs in the UIC College of Applied Health Sciences also ranked in the top 20: occupational health remained at No. 4, while physical therapy rose one spot, to 15th.

“The U.S. News & World Report rankings reflect our increasing national reputation and our commitment to research, education and clinical excellence,” said Dr. Robert Barish, vice chancellor for health affairs.

Students can pursue their research interests in leading laboratories, said Susan Poser, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“Research at UIC is reshaping educational policy — developing cleaner, more sustainable energy; helping to make sense of today’s vast amounts of computer-generated data; and driving economic development by moving research to practical application, among other things,” Poser said. “We are pleased that U.S. News is beginning to recognize the extraordinary and varied research at UIC and the high quality of education and opportunity that our outstanding student body receives.”


‘UIC ENGAGE’ Providing Student Tutors To Nearby Chicago Public Schools, Churches


Students from UIC’s 15 colleges are volunteering their time to tutor students in nearby elementary schools. “Youth who live in communities with low college-going rates can advance academically and personally by working with UIC students,” says Alfred Tatum (center), dean of the UIC College of Education and creator of UIC ENGAGE. Photo: Jenny Fontaine

Students throughout UIC are volunteering after-school hours to teach math and writing to elementary students in neighborhoods near UIC.

These aren’t student teachers working toward an education degree. These tutors are students from any of UIC’s 15 colleges, volunteering in a one-semester pilot program called UIC ENGAGE. “Youth who live in communities with low college-going rates can advance academically and personally by working with UIC students,” said Alfred Tatum, dean of the UIC College of Education and creator of UIC ENGAGE.

“We want our students to know that their presence in the community will have a significant impact on the lives of others. This pilot is part of UIC’s long-term commitment to expand college access and promote the well-being of the neighborhoods around UIC,” Tatum said.

“As a child with working parents, I didn’t have any resources to find a tutor when I needed help, nor did I have an older sibling as a role model,” said Janess Borromeo, who is studying to be a nurse-practitioner specializing in gerontology . “UIC ENGAGE is a great program to help kids who lack extra resources, as well as providing role models they can look up to.”

“UIC ENGAGE allows me to help children in need. Being able to help kids achieve their goals is very rewarding,” said Sakai Parker, a third-year pre-nursing student.

The neighborhoods were chosen for proximity to UIC and their need for greater academic resources. The UIC students travel by bus to meet the elementary students in two schools and three churches for two hours — one hour for math, one hour for writing — on alternating days, Monday through Thursday.

The participating schools are Smyth Elementary in Little Italy and Haines Elementary in Chinatown. The churches include Faith Community Church, Greater Open Door Baptist Church and Greater Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in North Lawndale.

A community liaison in each neighborhood provides support throughout the semester.

The UIC students receive resource manuals for the teaching of math and writing, six hours of training and technological support throughout the semester. Those who complete a semester of tutoring will receive a UIC Experience certificate and recognition at a luncheon with UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis.

By: Jeffron Boynés


Conflicts of Interest In Environmental and Occupational Health Risk Reports

Scientists looking for environmental and occupational health risks are less likely to find them if they have a financial tie to firms that make, use, or dispose of industrial and commercial products, a University of Illinois at Chicago researcher has found.

In the largest and first comprehensive study relating findings to conflicts of interest among researchers in environmental and occupational health, UIC researcher Lee Friedman found a clear association between findings of no adverse health outcomes and financial conflicts of interest among the researchers conducting those studies.

His results are published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

“Studies funded by organizations that are involved in exposing the environment to pollutants or their workers to hazardous materials are substantially less likely to observe an association that these exposures have or increase the risk for negative health consequences,” said Friedman, associate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences in the UIC School of Public Health.

Friedman said the link between financial conflict of interest and negative findings for risk was strongest in studies in which the primary author is employed by the military.

Other studies have shown that funding from corporations tends to result in findings favorable to the firm when looking at food and drug safety and climate issues. But the new study is the first to look for a link between financial conflict and favorable findings in studies of risks from exposure to potential chemical and physical health hazards in the workplace or home.

“Financial implications of research findings in this field are as substantial, if not greater than, [in] other fields,” said Friedman, noting that environmental and occupational health studies can often lead to civil lawsuits, fines, and stricter government regulation for the production, use, or disposal of commercial products.

Friedman gathered 373 original, peer-reviewed studies published in 2012 that looked for associations between human exposure to consumer and agricultural products and adverse health effects. He examined the authors’ affiliation with government and corporate funding sources, and the general findings of each study with respect to health risks posed by environmental or occupational exposures.

In 64 of the studies, authors disclosed a financial conflict of interest. About half of these studies reported finding a health risk; about 30 percent reported mixed results; and 20 percent reported no findings of risk. In contrast, only 13.5 percent of studies reported no findings of risk when there was no conflict of interest among authors.

On closer look, simply receiving money to conduct research from an organization was not very predictive of authors reporting negligible risks, Friedman said. But a regular paycheck was.

“Employment was a key factor,” he said.

While 28.3 percent of the studies published by authors with a financial conflict of interest reported no risk when none of the authors was actually employed by an organization involved in the processing, use, or disposal of the hazard in question, this proportion jumped to 59 percent of studies if any of the authors was so employed. If it was the primary author who was the employee, the proportion rose of studies finding no risk rose to 64 percent if the employer was a corporation — and 83 percent if the employer was military.

Friedman said that some critics have supposed that scientists would be more likely to find risk if their research was funded by regulatory agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency. However, he found that government-funded studies did not differ in their likelihood of finding risk from studies in which the authors had no apparent interest in the outcome.

“The assertion that government-funded studies would disproportionately report … findings [of risk] because of a systematic bias by the employees within these organizations is not supported by the findings in this analysis,” Friedman said.

Friedman says that part of the problem with transparency about conflicts of interest is that the responsibility to disclose them rests solely on the author.

“There are few repercussions for failing to disclose a conflict, and there are few protections for whistleblowers,” he said. “Whatever solutions are developed, they must be adopted broadly and internationally — so authors don’t publish through countries where getting around reporting conflict of interest is easier.”

When asked if he had any conflict of interest to report for this study, Friedman said, “I didn’t receive or solicit any funding to do this research.”

By: Sharon Parmet

Medical Mannequins

The College of Nursing’s M. Christine Schwartz Experiential Learning Laboratory provides students with hands-on clinical experience using a variety of simulation activities performed on realistic mannequins.


Video By Rachel Glass
MFA Candidate
UIC News Videographer