Monthly archives: June, 2016

Orphan drug allows kidney transplant from relative with mismatched blood type

Dr. Enrico Benedetti

Dr. Enrico Benedetti, professor and head of surgery at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System

Surgeons at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System have — for the first time — used an orphan drug to prevent rejection of a kidney transplanted from a living donor with a mismatched blood type.

Michelle Lee, 47, had been on dialysis for almost six months due to kidney failure from high blood pressure. When her doctors told her she would need a kidney transplant, her three sons immediately stepped up.

“We got worked up, and it looked like I was the best match for my mom,” said Marlon Lee, 22.

Except he wasn’t quite a perfect match.

Marlon has type A blood, while his mother is type O. Without treatment, antibodies in her blood would attack the mismatched organ and cause rejection.

About 15 to 20 percent of people who need a kidney transplant have a living relative who is a perfect tissue match except for the blood group, said Dr. Enrico Benedetti, professor and head of surgery at the UIC College of Medicine.

Many such patients can nevertheless get transplanted, Benedetti said. The recipient must undergo several days of plasma exchanges to remove antibodies from the blood. Usually, this pretreatment, called plasmapheresis, reduces the level of antibodies enough to allow transplantation, though some patients patients must have their spleen — a major producer of antibodies — removed during the surgery.

But for some, plasmapheresis leaves their antibody level still too high. Lee was one such patient.

“This would have caused us to cancel the transplant, except we had experience using a drug called eculizumab, which blocks the blood antibodies from reacting,” Benedetti said.

He and colleagues at UI Health had pioneered the use of eculizimab in three kidney patients with unusually high antibody levels who received cadaver organs. One patient had very high antibodies due to numerous blood transfusions; the other two had not responded adequately to plasmapheresis. All three were transplanted successfully with eculizimab.

Lee was given a dose of eculizumab the day before her May 5 transplant, during which surgeons did not remove her spleen. Just five days after transplant, she went home.

Lee will need a few more doses of eculizumab over the next few weeks, Benedetti said, and she will need to take traditional antirejection medications for the rest of her life. But her prognosis is good.

“If we can protect the organ for the first two to three weeks after transplant, we’re mostly out of the woods,” said Benedetti. “The body and organ will acclimate to each other, and antibody interactions aren’t as serious a concern.”

Benedetti said he hopes this technique will allow for more blood-type-incompatible kidney transplants to take place.

“Eculizumab can help prevent rejection among patients that have a living donor and would have otherwise been turned down for the transplant,” he said.

By Sharon Parmet

Community Conversations: Remaking the West Side

National Hellenic MuseumJoin the community conversation from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 30th, at the National Hellenic Museum, 333 South Halsted Street, in Chicago, with Professor Paul Green, Ph.D. Professor of political science at Roosevelt University. Professor Green will be in conversation with Rufus Williams, CEO of BBF Family Services in North Lawndale to discuss the history and formation of Chicago neighborhoods, particularly, the making and re-making of Chicago’s west side.

“Making the West Side: Community Conversations on Neighborhood Change” is a year-long project funded through the National Endowment for the Humanities that will bring together scholars, activists, neighborhood residents, and other stakeholders to investigate the history of neighborhood change on Chicago’s West Side and connect those histories to contemporary issues and concerns. The project kicked off with a public forum on May 19 and continues through the summer with community conversations across Chicago’s West Side.

This event is free and requires registration HERE.

UIC Training Emergency Medical Technicians

UIC Emergency Medical Services operates the only university ambulance in Illinois licensed to transport patients. Students can train to earn national certification and work as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), gaining valuable patient-care experience.

University of Illinois at Chicago Announces Partnership To Help International Students Succeed

studentsUniversity of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and Shorelight Education recently announced the signing of an agreement to create UIC International, an innovative partnership platform that supports the recruitment, preparation, and success of international students. UIC International will launch the International Accelerator Program (IAP), which will operate at both the undergraduate and post-graduate levels.

Located in Chicago, Ill., UIC International will broaden educational opportunities for students from across the globe and help the university become a model for international student success and opportunity. The development and implementation of UIC International aligns with the university’s emphasis on diversity and providing students with ethnically and culturally rich learning environment. The IAP will provide students with academic, language, social, and professional development opportunities that together dramatically increase student retention and integrate international students into campus life.

“University of Illinois at Chicago is dedicated to the discovery and distribution of knowledge,” said Michael Amiridis, chancellor of UIC. “Our collaboration with Shorelight through UIC International deepens our investment in the international community and provides new and innovative ways to give students the chance to study, work and grow with classmates who will broaden each other’s perspectives and worldview.”

With a mandate to support student success and retention, UIC International will provide a dedicated team of support staff and enrollment management services, ensuring a smooth transition and integration for students coming to UIC from diverse geographies and academic backgrounds. The program will build upon existing infrastructure within the university to grow international student enrollment by recruiting from more than 100 countries, support international students transition to a U.S. academic environment, and expand UIC’s global brand.

“Shorelight is proud to build a program with University of Illinois at Chicago that will offer international students a transformative experience at a signature U.S. institution in a great American city,” said Tom Dretler, CEO of Shorelight Education. “UIC IAP students will benefit directly from an intimate, community-focused program with highly ranked academics and personalized support that will follow them through their very first days on campus to their successful graduation and beyond.”

University of Illinois at Chicago will welcome its first IAP students in spring 2017.

By Sherri McGinnis González


Dr. Afshari Receives AAFP Baker Award

Afshari.2-260x260The American Academy of Fixed Prosthodontics (AAFP) has presented Dr. Fatemeh Afshari, Clinical Associate Professor, Restorative Dentistry, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, with the 2016 Claude Baker Faculty Award.

The Baker Award recognizes exceptional dental school junior faculty members in predoctoral fixed prosthodontics teaching. The award acknowledges excellence in teaching demonstrated by innovative teaching methods, student awards, and exceptional course material.

Dr. Afshari was nominated by Dr. Stephen Campbell, Head, Restorative Dentistry, and was chosen by an AAFP standing committee.
She attributed her being honored with the award to several reasons.

“Being fortunate to have myriad opportunities to teach multiple aspects of fixed prosthodontics within the school; all the support and encouragement I have received from my mentors and other faculty at UIC to excel at whatever I do; and the inspiration and drive I get from the students to improve myself and my teaching style with every passing semester,” Dr. Afshari said.

Dr. Judy Yuan, Assistant Professor, Restorative Dentistry, received the award in 2012. Dr. Afshari noted that Dr. Yuan “has served as an outstanding mentor and role model to me and other junior faculty at the school. Without her and Dr. Campbell’s support and mentorship, I would not have received this award.”

How White Principals Navigate Predominantly Non-White Urban Schools

Michael-Beyer-260x260Recent research from the Center for Urban Education Leadership examined standardized test achievement for Illinois students under No Child Left Behind. The results are stark: although scores are improving for Black and Latino students, those populations still lag behind White students.

The root causes of this are varied and deep and certainly not explained by race, but the Center’s Jason Swanson, PhD, research specialist, argues in new research that urban principals are limited in designing strategies to address educational gaps when these groups are not even identified by race.

His research, “White Principals Attempting to Lead Race-Conscious School Improvement: A Distributive Perspective,” is set to be published in the journal Urban Education. The article argues sidestepping the issue of race restricts principals’ ability to address systemic inequities.

“It’s a really uncomfortable conversation for a lot of people,” Swanson said. “There are a lot of people who want to help all students, so they say I don’t see race, there’s only one race, the human race. This turns a blind eye to the racial world we live in, a world that Black and Latino Americans experience all the time.”

The paper explores the efforts of two principals attempting to create critical conversations and curricular changes to address educational gaps between racial groups. Both principals faced resistance to their efforts: in one case, a group of White teachers ‘hijacked’ a meeting at which these issues were to be discussed; in a second case, a principal only addressed issues of race obliquely because the school district had been sued over racial disparities in school outcomes and teachers were weary of heavy-handed policies on race.

These situations are an illustration of the disparities in the makeup of teaching and student bodies in Illinois. In the district studied, approximately 80-85 percent of teachers are White while 60 percent of students are non-White. Just 15 years ago, 80 percent of those students were White and only 20 percent were low-income. In Chicago, however, there is a greater disparity. While more than half of the teachers are White, over 90% of the student body identifies as a student of color.

“You have teachers who are teaching just as they were 15 years ago wondering what the heck is going on here, why aren’t these kids learning?” Swanson said. “So we have to ask, to what extent are districts deliberately creating spaces where principals and teachers can explore issues like culturally responsive pedagogy and issues of social justice to accommodate this rapidly changing demographic?”

Both principals in the study launched strategies to exercise whatever political capital they possessed. One principal realized he might not be the most qualified candidate to bring up issues of race, so he built capacity in teacher leaders to take a more active role in facilitating conversations. He also formed a social action committee, providing space for students to name the injustices they saw in their school. Teachers took these grievances back to the whole staff body for conversation.

One outgrowth of the committee was an event called “Fourth Monday Meetings,” in which staff members participated on one of four committees focused on areas of social justice highlighted by the student body.

The second principal attempted to frame issues of race openly at staff development meetings, specifically naming racial injustices and gross disparities between White students and Black, Latino and English language learner students.

The schools also focused on ways in which equity and diversity were building a sense of community. Prior to the social action committee, within the hallways, the majority of posters across the school featured mostly famous White people. And within the classrooms, most of the texts and curriculum only focused on the successes of White people. Swanson says when students of color don’t see themselves reflected in curriculum and the school environment they tend to check out.

“To solve systemic problems, you have to have systemic solutions,” Swanson said. “This is just a very first step in trying to name the problem. Principal preparation programs often treat issues of race so lightly that novice leaders don’t have models or tools to handle these inevitable situations.”

By Rob Schroeder

Hispanic Student Dental Association Wins Big

X.HSDA4_.29.16image1-002The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Dentistry’s Hispanic Student Dental Association (HSDA) Chapter was named the Hispanic Dental Association’s (HDA) 2016 National Student Chapter of the Year at the HDA’s recent Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. This award recognizes the chapter for outstanding efforts to provide service, education, advocacy and leadership in Hispanic oral health.

Selected by a committee consisting of HDA National Office staff members and invited jurors, the chapter stood out among affiliate dental student chapters across the nation.

“We won due to our excellence in community outreach and activity this past year,” Jacqueline Magallanes, President of the UIC HSDA, explained. “Chapter of the Year guidelines look at community outreach, membership growth, and overall activity. We participated in dozens of community outreach events where we provided oral hygiene instruction, patient education, and free dental services in underserved communities with minority populations.”

Magallanes added, “We also boosted our student membership by nearly 100%, and hosted Spanish classes with an average of 30-40 students each session. We also have a very close partnership with our parent chapter, the regional Greater Chicago HAD, through which we participate in CE courses, seminars, and social activities.”

The award benefits the College and its HSDA chapter “because it highlights the diversity that represents UIC, and sheds light on the needs of our minority communities. We are helping to improve the general and oral health of one of the most afflicted communities in our city: the Hispanic population. It speaks to UIC’s mission of improving oral health, and HSDA’s mission of helping the underserved. Winning this award celebrates the hard work and dedication of HSDA’s board and members.”

Magallanes added that “HSDA celebrates diversity, and that by embracing our differences, we come together as a community with a common goal: to improve the oral and general health of our patients. Also, HSDA is very thankful to UIC’s Urban Health Program for sponsoring a couple of students to attend the conference, and especially thankful to our parent chapter, the Greater Chicago HAD, for sponsoring six students to attend the conference.

She offered special thanks to alumni Dr. Marcela Escobar, Dr. Carla Delafuente, and Dr. Genaro Romo of the Greater Chicago HDA for their support of the UIC HSDA.

UIC Dragon Boat Team Set To Compete

Pyro Boat Team

The UIC Pyro Paddlers are ready to compete. Photo: Timothy Nguyen

Cheer on the Pyro Paddlers Saturday during their first race of the summer.

UIC’s dragon boat team will compete at the St. Charles Festival of the Fox Dragon Boat Race at Pottawatomie Park, 8 North Ave., St. Charles. Races are scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Teams compete throughout the day in elimination rounds.

Spectators are encouraged to bring signs supporting the team and wear blue clothing or UIC apparel.

The Pyro Paddlers team is composed of 20 members — students, staff, faculty and alumni. Dragon boat teams have 18 paddlers, a flag puller and a drummer who keeps the rhythm.

To be a dragon boat racer, it helps to possess athleticism and endurance, said co-captain Jenny Korn.

“Having strength is helpful, but it’s not enough,” said Korn, a doctoral student in communication and gender and women’s studies. “Muscling through dragon boat is not the way to win. The ability to stay in sync through watching our lead paddlers, while having the stamina to paddle in a sustained manner, is what sets apart the skilled dragon boat racer.”

Admission and parking for Saturday’s event are free.

“Expect a fun day full of lively racing in warm weather,” Korn said.

The team will also compete in the Chicago Dragon Boat Race for Literacy June 25 in Ping Tom Memorial Park, 300 W. 19th St.

Mile Square Health Center to Treat Opioid Addiction

Mile SquareThe University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System Mile Square Health Center has received a $325,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to hire specialists in addiction for its main location at 1220 S. Wood Street.

Mile Square will add a full-time, licensed substance-abuse counselor as well as a nurse coordinator. The grant will also partially support a psychiatrist for substance abuse patients.

Treatment will include counseling, support groups and medication therapy. Social-work students from UIC’s Jane Adams College of Social Work will help link patients to care outside the clinic and provide counseling.

Medications like Suboxone, which helps opioid addicts manage withdrawal and control their addiction, are “front-and-center of the treatment plan,” says Dr. Kameron Matthews, chief medical officer at Mile Square.

More physicians are getting certified to prescribe drugs like Suboxone to address the huge population of opioid-addicted Americans, Matthews said.

“Suboxone and drugs like it can really help people with addiction get a grip on their substance abuse, so that supportive therapies like counseling can have a better chance of keeping that person functional and an active member of society,” he said.

Substance-abuse specialists will help Mile Square provide treatment for a growing number of patients identified who could benefit. The center plans to increase screening for substance abuse during primary care visits. The new substance-abuse services are expected to launch at Mile Square’s main location this summer.

The HHS funding comes amid a longterm surge in painkiller addiction and heroin use.

Opioid addiction is now a leading cause of death in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin and prescription painkillers like oxycodone killed more than 28,000 people in 2014. Almost two million Americans abused or were dependent on those drugs that year, with triple the rate of overdoses as in 2000.

Mile Square Health Center is made up of 13 federally-qualified health centers with primary and specialty care clinics in the Near West Side, South Shore, Back of the Yards, Englewood and Cicero areas; four school-based health centers associated with the UIC School of Public Health; and three behavioral health-focused clinics managed by the UIC College of Nursing.

By Sharon Parmet

Research Examines How Charter Schools Are Evaluated In Providing Service to ESL Students

As charter schools continue expansion in urban school districts, state education policymakers face unique questions evaluating how an entirely new school, created from scratch, will serve the needs of English language learners. Check out this research from the UIC College of Education’s P. Zitlali Morales, PhD, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, and Peggie Garcia, PhD Curriculum and Instruction ’16, examining how charter school authorizers evaluate charter schools’ ability to serve this critical population.