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    NIH Director Visits Morehouse School of Medicine

    For Immediate Release
    May 27, 2010
    Media Contact: Cherie Richardson, 404.752.1917 or



    NIH Director Visits Morehouse School of Medicine Neuroscience

    MSM Researchers Outline Translational and Collaborative Research Initiatives


    It isn't often researchers have a chance to talk one-on-one with the director of the National Institute of Health and yet, that is exactly what happened during the recent visit of Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.,  and his and chief of staff Kathy Hudson, Ph.D.,  to Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) on Wednesday, April 14.

    Collins became the 16th director of NIH on August 17, 2009. Prior to his nomination by President Barack Obama, Collins, a physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project, served as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the NIH from 1993-2008.

    The main purpose of Collins’ visit was to view the activities of the Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute (ACTSI), one of 46 national Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) funded by the NIH through the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR). ACTSI is a collaboration between MSM, Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology as well as Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia Research Alliance, Georgia BIO, Kaiser Permanente, CDC, the Atlanta VA Medical Center and Grady Health System.

    The capstone of Collins' visit was an afternoon session hosted by MSM President John E. Maupin Jr., D.D.S., and featuring presentations by MSM researchers showcasing the variety of clinical, translational and collaborative research being conducted on campus.

    Elizabeth Ofili, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean, director of Clinical Research, and ACTSI's co-principal investigator, outlined how MSM is responding to the physician, public health and biomedical scientist workforce crisis by describing the various degree programs offered at MSM, and how the programs are funded. "We are committed to nurturing the next generation of minority scientists, and translating research advances to benefit minority communities," said Ofili.

    Ofili introduced researcher awardees based on their research abstracts presented at the Association of Clinical Research Training /Society of Clinical and Translational Science Joint Annual Scientific Session the first week of April. These included:    


    ·         Baraka Floyd, M.D. and M.S. candidate (Outcomes Research); "A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of the Efficacy and Safety of Continuous Glucose Monitoring."

    ·         Lilly Cheng Immergluck, M.D., FAAP, associate professor Pediatrics, Divisions of Research and Infectious Diseases (Clinical Epidemiology); "Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) Carriage and Infection in Children from an Emergency Department."

    ·         Djana Harp, M.D., assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Translational Basic to Clinical - "Oncofertility and an Alginate In vitro 3-Dimensional Follicle Culture System."

    Other researchers who presented summaries of their research at the afternoon session were:

    -- Priscilla Eyikojoka Igho-Pemu, M.D., M.S.C.R.; associate professor, Clinical Medicine covered two research topics: "DASH Score Predicts Vascular Function and Insulin Resistance among Normotensive Lean and Obese African American Women" and "Gene Expression in Obese Versus Lean African American Women."

    -- Daniel S. Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.H., professor and associate dean for Community Health, talked about the fact that MSM has been able to immerse itself in the community and counteract suspicions they may have. "We want to be seen as a partner, and, we want people to take ownership over the research in their communities."

    Blumenthal also mentioned the colorectal screening study MSM conducted and credited ACTSI with ensuring it was more than just a snapshot of the problem. "The intervention program might have stayed on the shelf if not for ACTSI."  

    --Peter R. MacLeish, Ph.D., professor and chair, Neuroscience Institute (NI) outlined both the Circadian Rhythms and Sleep Disorders and the Stroke/Brain Ischemia programs at NI. "We are always committed to translational research at NI."  He also mentioned that Roger Simon, M.D., has joined MSM and will add his expertise in stroke research, especially small vessel stroke and the activation of the SPIRP program in collaboration with Emory and Grady.

    -- Byron D. Ford, Ph.D., professor and director, Neuroprotection, Neurorepair and Stroke Program (NNSP) spoke about the disparities of stroke incidents in the Southeast and his lab's research on the neuroprotective properties of neuregulin-1 is following focal stroke in vivo.

    -- Gary H. Gibbons, M.D., director, Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI), and chair of the Department of Physiology said one translational initiative at CVRI to utilize new genomic technologies to integrate the areas of physiologic genomics, functional genomics and human molecular genetics in the field of vascular biology and medicine. Gibbons said one of the ultimate goals of his program is to take a multi-level, multi-disciplinary approach to understanding and ameliorating racial/ethnic disparities in cardiovascular health.

    -- Veena N. Rao, Ph.D., professor and co-director, Cancer Biology Program spoke about her lab's groundbreaking research in ERG and prostate cancer, and BRAC1 and breast cancer.  "We plan to validate biomarkers and develop structure-based targeted drugs than can add to, or avoid chemotherapy for triple negative breast cancer."

    --Vincent C. Bond, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Immunology and director, Research Center in Minority Institutions (RCMI) said his laboratory's research goal is to further our understanding of host-HIV-1 interactions and the role, if any, this plays in progression to AIDS. “We have focused our efforts on the role(s) played by extracellular HIV-1 proteins in the pathogenic manipulation of host systems”. Among other accomplishments he said his lab has developed high throughput assays to screen for anti-secretion agents.

    -- Jonathan K. Stiles, Ph.D., professor, Microbiology Hemoglobinopathies/Genomics & Immunopathogenesis, spoke about MSM's Global Health initiatives. "MSM realizes the significant challenges posed by global health disparities and reaches out to communities both in the U.S. and abroad to seek sustainable solutions," said Stiles.

    After each presentation, Collins asked questions and encouraged a dialogue with the researchers displaying his broad understanding of each research area.  In each instance, Collins congratulated them on their inquisitiveness, initiative and the importance of their chosen research topics.

    Maupin emphasized that MSM’s mission focuses on primary health-care needs through programs in education, research, and service, especially the underserved urban and rural populations in Georgia and the nation. "We occupy a unique position among the nation’s array of medical schools, in that MSM is a vital component of America’s health-care system, supporting the national resolve to create a healthier America," said Maupin.

    Maupin pointed out that in the United States, less than 35 percent of physicians train in primary care specialties including Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Obstetrics/Gynecology, and Medicine/Pediatrics. By comparison, since 1994, more than 60 percent of MSM graduates have chosen the field of primary care.  "The content and context of our training programs and health services reflect our steadfast commitment to enhancing the diversity of the health professions workforce and improving the health and well-being of medically underserved communities."

    Sandra Harris-Hooker, Ph.D. interim dean and senior vice president for Academic Affairs and  vice president and senior associate dean for Research, highlighted the impact RCMI funding has had on MSM including the development of several areas of research focus at the institution including cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS, neuroscience, reproductive biology, and molecular immunology.

    She added that the RCMI Program has made an incalculable contribution to the ability of the MSM faculty to do research, and that MSM has experienced dramatic increases in the parameters that are most commonly used to measure research capacity and productivity including amount of research space; number of grants; amount of research funding; number of research associates; number of research faculty and number of peer reviewed publications.  "The RCMI program has been key in this remarkable development of biomedical research capacity and productivity at MSM," said Harris-Hooker.

    At the end of the session Harris-Hooker, summarized the impact NIH funding has had on the success and growth of MSM. "We still have many challenges, including the projected decline or plateau of NIH funding, and the limited funds to support trainees," said Harris-Hooker.  She added that in the future, among other things, MSM plans to diversify the medical school's funding model, enhance current partnerships and collaborators, expand "transition" type awards and enhance endowment support of select research programs. 

    About Morehouse School of Medicine
    Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) recruits and trains minority and other students as physicians, biomedical scientists and public health professionals committed to improving the health and well-being of communities. MSM is a member of the largest consortium of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the world — the Atlanta University Center (AUC). For more information about Morehouse School of Medicine, visit us online at