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First TRI Open House Draws More than 100

Sarah Rhoads, Ph.D., D.N.P., visits with TRI’s Nia Indelicato and Amy Jo Jenkins.

The first Open House for the UAMS Translational Research Institute (TRI) drew more than 100 attendees from UAMS’ research community interested in learning about the resources and services offered by TRI.

TRI held the open house as a fun way to introduce itself to new researchers and for others to learn more about what all TRI has to offer. In addition to the 19 featured research services, the event included food and wine, as well as door prizes.

Both new and veteran UAMS researchers echoed their approval.

Hari Eswaran, Ph.D., a long-time professor in the College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said he was familiar with many of TRI’s offerings, but he discovered more during the open house.

TRI-supported services and resources on display included those of its Clinical Trials Innovation Unit, community engagement, participant recruitment, pilot awards, KL2 scholar awards, biostatistics, biomedical 

informatics, implementation science and entrepreneurship initiatives.

“Everybody knows TRI but probably not the whole gamut of what they do,” Eswaran said. “For example, I didn’t know about their implementation science function.”

Carolyn Greene, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry who is new to UAMS, said she was pleasantly surprised by the event.

“I’m really impressed by all the resources in one place,” she said. “Everything I need is right here.”

Sarah Rhoads, Ph.D., D.N.P., was also happy with the event. “I like how I can see everything that TRI offers, from A to Z, in one place.”

TRI’s Kate Stewart, M.D., M.P.H., and Anna Huff, (seated) speak with attendees about TRI’s Community Engagement Program.

TRI Director Laura James, M.D., said she plans to hold the Open House annually.

TRI Faculty Recognized for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

Drs. Beatrice Boateng, Ph.D., (second from left) and Martha Rojo, Ph.D., R.N., were joined following the awards ceremony by UAMS Interim Chancellor Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., (far left) and Billy R. Thomas, M.D., Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion.

UAMS Translational Research Institute faculty Beatrice Boateng, Ph.D., and Martha Rojo, Ph.D., R.N., were among those recognized Wednesday at UAMS’ 2017 Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Awards Ceremony.  Boateng won the faculty award, while Rojo was a faculty nominee. Both are dedicated to their work for TRI and making health care and research more diverse and inclusive at UAMS.

As an evaluator for TRI, Boateng works to improve diversity among researchers at UAMS. In 2016, she led a campus-wide survey to assess the institutional climate on diversity and inclusion, including its effect on the recruitment and retention of a diverse academic body.

Additional indicators of Boateng’s commitment to diversity are:

  • Her work with the UAMS Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity (IMSD) where she collaborates with the Graduate School to provide workshops on developing electronic career portfolios. This project supports underrepresented minority students in UAMS’ biomedical graduate programs.
  • Her service as a mentor on the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN), which is made up of mentors and trainees nationally and provides trainees with evidenced-based mentorship.

“Dr. Boateng’s diversity efforts expand beyond individual characteristics to cross-professional inclusion,” her nomination letter states. In collaboration with UAMS’ Mary Aitken, M.D., and with the support of TRI, Boateng, an associate professor in the College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, has been working for more than two years to enhance mentorship at UAMS. She kicked off these efforts by facilitating a mentor training session led by visiting faculty from the University of Wisconsin and followed up by receiving facilitator training in 2016. In 2017, Boateng spearheaded the first independent training at UAMS, a one-day overview workshop for mentor development. Her efforts to include a diverse group of faculty in the effort and the positive impact it had on attendees was evident in their feedback.

Rojo serves on TRI’s Recruitment Unit Team, where she has led efforts to recruit research participants from the Hispanic community.

An assistant professor in the UAMS College of Nursing, Rojo “brings a focus and commitment in her many roles at UAMS with one common denominator: the priority to engage and integrate special populations into clinical research and educational outreach programs,” her nomination letter states.

Wednesday’s awards ceremony kicked off a series of UAMS events related to diversity and inclusion during September.

UAMS Synthetic ‘Marijuana’ Researcher Presents Findings at National Meeting

Anna Radominska-Pandya, Ph.D., (left front) with UAMS synthetic “marijuana” research team members, including Laura James, M.D., (right), and (back, l-r) Principal Investigator Paul Prather, Ph.D., Jeff Moran, Ph.D., and William Fantegrossi, Ph.D.

LITTLE ROCK — Some people who use so-called synthetic marijuana, known by names such as K2 and Spice, may be unable to metabolize the drug, leading them to experience its most harmful effects, a UAMS researcher said at the recent national Experimental Biology 2017 meeting in Chicago.

Anna Radominska-Pandya, Ph.D., part of a UAMS research team examining how the body processes the man-made cannabinoids, presented the team’s findings on the harmful effects of synthetic marijuana at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics annual meeting, which was held during Experimental Biology, a meeting that draws thousands.

Synthetic “marijuana” is a growing group of man-made cannabinoids marketed as alternatives to marijuana. Although the man-made drugs activate the same receptors in the brain as natural marijuana, they are known to have volatile effects that can lead to severe injury and death.

Radominska-Pandya is a professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Medicine. Her work could identify genetic risk factors that make some people susceptible to the synthetic cannabinoids’ most harmful consequences, potentially leading to antidotes that counteract the worst effects.

Radominska-Pandya and her colleagues have found that some people are unable to metabolize and excrete synthetic cannabinoids. They now hypothesize that a person’s genetic makeup could produce the metabolism defects that cause the most harmful effects from the drug. Future genetics tests could potentially identify those people.

“It is important to understand the underlying causes and toxicity of synthetic cannabinoids so that effective treatments and antidotes can be developed,” Radominska-Pandya said.

UAMS has been a national leader of synthetic cannabinoid research since the UAMS Translational Research Institute funded the team’s work in 2011 with a $100,000 pilot award. In 2016, the team, led by Paul Prather, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, received a five-year, $2.7 million National Institute of Drug Abuse grant that builds on the work of the pilot study.

Synthetic cannabinoids come in more than 150 chemical forms and the list is growing. As new synthetic cannabinoids appear on the market, the UAMS research team will study their properties and how the body’s metabolism may contribute to their harmful effects.

Experimental Biology is an annual meeting comprised of more than 14,000 scientists and exhibitors from six host societies and multiple guest societies. With a mission to share the newest scientific concepts and research findings shaping clinical advances, the meeting offers an unparalleled opportunity for exchange among scientists from across the United States and the world who represent dozens of scientific areas, from laboratory to translational to clinical research.

TRI Part of NIH Milestone to Accelerate Multisite Clinical Studies

CTSA Program paves way for nationwide single IRB model.

Developing new treatments for diseases often requires large numbers of clinical research participants enrolled in the same study at numerous geographical sites. These multisite clinical trials are well-positioned to discover whether a promising therapeutic is safe and effective, and may provide medical professionals with the information needed for treating their patients. However, the initiation of such studies may be delayed because each site typically relies on its own Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) to provide ethics reviews of the risks and benefits of the proposed research.

Christopher P. Austin, M.D.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is leading policy and programmatic initiatives to streamline this overly cumbersome process. NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) announced today that all Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program sites (including the UAMS Translational Research Institute) have signed on to the NCATS Streamlined, Multisite, Accelerated Resources for Trials (SMART) IRB authorization agreement. This agreement — which now includes a total of more than 150 top medical research institutions — will enable all participating study sites to rely on the ethics review of one IRB for each study, making it possible to initiate multisite studies within weeks instead of months. For patients waiting to enroll in a study, this could make a life-saving difference.

The SMART IRB authorization agreement serves as a model to help investigators adhere to the NIH’s policy on single IRB use for multisite studies. This policy was designed to improve IRB efficiencies while ensuring the protection of research participants so that research can proceed expeditiously.

The authorization agreement effort was led by Harvard Catalyst, University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, and Dartmouth Synergy. Through these institutions, a team of NCATS-supported SMART IRB ambassadors facilitated and provided critical guidance and support to assist institutions in joining and implementing the SMART IRB authorization agreement.

“This milestone is a giant step toward a nationwide model for greater efficiency in IRB review, which is critical to getting more treatments to more patients more quickly,” said NCATS Director Christopher P. Austin, M.D. “It was made possible by the teamwork of hundreds of experts across the country who worked together to achieve what was thought to be impossible even a few years ago.”

In addition, the SMART IRB authorization agreement will provide the foundation for NCATS’ Trial Innovation Network central IRBs. The Trial Innovation Network is a collaborative CTSA Program initiative designed to address critical roadblocks in clinical research, and to optimize and streamline the clinical trial and studies process.

Next steps for the NCATS SMART IRB Platform include the development of education, training and harmonization of best practices for a single IRB review. Learn more at https://ncats.nih.gov/expertise/clinical/smartirb and https://smartirb.org (link is external).

About the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS): To get more treatments to more patients more quickly, NCATS incorporates the power of data, new technologies and strategic collaborations to develop, demonstrate and disseminate innovations in translational science. Rather than targeting a particular disease or fundamental science, NCATS focuses on what is common across all diseases and the translational process. Learn more at https://ncats.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

UAMS Visitor Talks Latino Health Paradox and Cinco de Mayo

David E. Hayes-Bautista, Ph.D., explains the historic significance of Cinco de Mayo in the United States.

A couple of common misconceptions about Hispanics were highlighted in talks by David E. Hayes-Bautista, Ph.D., who visited UAMS and the Clinton School of Public Service last week.

Hayes-Bautista, a distinguished professor of medicine from the University of California, Los Angeles, noted that Latinos are often incorrectly lumped with other minorities when health disparities are discussed.

Like other minorities, Hispanics have the commonly cited risk factors of lower income, low education and low access to health care. And yet, for many conditions, the health of Hispanics is just as good as whites and in some cases better. For example, Hispanics in the United States have a 30 percent lower rate of heart disease – the leading cause of death – than whites.

“Whoa, lower?” Hayes-Bautista asked during a presentation to UAMS faculty. “Shouldn’t it be higher?”

The same is true for cancer, the second leading cause of death. Hispanics nationally have a nearly 40 percent lower rate of cancer deaths than whites. In Arkansas, Hispanics have a 70 percent lower death rate from cancer.

Hayes-Bautista said Hispanics/Latinos bring healthy behaviors from their native countries. For example, the smoking rate among Hispanics is about half that of whites in Arkansas.

David E. Hayes-Bautista, Ph.D., (center, back), with (l-r) TRI’s Pam Christie, Amy Jo Jenkins, Teresa Broady, Sandra Hatley, Michael Bailey, Robbie Hunt and Beatrice Boateng, Ph.D.

But those good behaviors are weakened in their U.S.-born children, who have higher rates of poor health behaviors.

For more than three decades he has studied the “Latino Epidemiological Paradox,” the tendency of Latino Americans to have health outcomes comparable to or better than their non-Hispanic white counterparts in the United States, and the implications of this paradox for populations, chronic diseases and communicable diseases.

Hayes-Bautista’s study of Hispanic culture and history led him to write the book El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition, a topic he presented at the Clinton School. The public event and reception was sponsored by the UAMS Translational Research Institute and the UAMS Center for Diversity Affairs, as well as the Clinton School.

Cinco de Mayo marks the Mexican military victory over the invading French army on May 5, 1862, but it’s more widely celebrated in the United States than in Mexico. The victory, he explained, prevented an alliance that would have benefited the Confederacy. Hispanics were against slavery and sided with the Union. The May 5 victory was the turning point in France’s attempt to create a monarchy over Mexico that would ally with the Confederacy. For U.S. Latinos from Mexico, the victory became a rallying cry for the Union.

In 1996, Cinco de Mayo got a U.S. postage stamp, and in 2005 it became an annual celebration in the White House and is now recognized widely across the country.

“If you ask these millions of people why are we celebrating, nobody knows. It’s just a party for some,” Hayes-Bautista said.

Billy Thomas, M.D., vice chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion at the UAMS Center for Diversity Affairs, presented David E. Hayes Bautista, Ph.D., with an Arkansas Traveler certificate following his talk at the Clinton School.

His UAMS talks are available at http://bit.ly/2nk4wMI (hosted by Peds Place) and http://bit.ly/2nPG5YW (hosted by College of Pharmacy).

His talk at the Clinton School will be available soon at: http://www.clintonschoolspeakers.com.

Hayes-Bautista is also director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. For the past five years, he has been chosen one of the 101 Top Leaders of the Latino Community in the U.S. by Latino Leaders Magazine. In 2012, he received the Association of American Medical Colleges Herbert W. Nickens Award for his lifelong concerns about the educational, societal and health care needs of underrepresented groups.

Hayes-Bautista has written or edited nine books on Latino health and culture and is a frequent contributor of opinion pieces to major newspapers. He has published articles in journals ranging from Academic Medicine to Salud Pública de México. He has authored dozens of proposals for funded research projects, and has given hundreds of presentations to medical and lay communities and to government agencies concerned with the nation’s health care system. Some of his center’s research on the emergence of the Latino population and society in California during the Spanish colonial, Mexican Republic, and U.S. statehood periods appears in his recent book, El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition (U.C. Press, 2012).

Other co-sponsors of his two-day visit were the UAMS College of Pharmacy, Arkansas Center for Health Disparities in the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, League of United Latin American Citizens, and the Joel E. Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Short Course on Analysis of Incomplete Data, April 28

Ofer Harel, Ph.D.

The Central Arkansas Chapter of the American Statistical Association (CASA) is sponsoring a one-day short course about the Analysis of Incomplete Data on Friday, April 28, 2017, from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. in the College of Public Health building, room 8240.

Biased results and inefficient estimates are just some of the risks of incorrectly dealing with incomplete data, a common problem in applied research. This course will emphasize practical implementation of proposed strategies for dealing with missing data, including discussion of software to implement recommended procedures.

The instructor is Ofer Harel, Ph.D., professor of statistics at the University of Connecticut. Harel received his doctorate in statistics in 2003 from the Pennsylvania State University and post-doctoral training in biostatistics at the University of Washington. He has served as a biostatistical consultant nationally and internationally since 1997 and has been involved with a variety of research fields including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, nutrition, HIV/AIDS, and alcohol and drug abuse prevention.

The cost to attend the short course is $90 for CASA members, $100 for non-members, and $35 for full time students. Lunch is included in the registration fee.  See printable registration form. 

The registration fee may be paid by check with a check payable to Central Arkansas Statistical Association, credit card (send an email to James Selig jpselig@uams.edu with the completed registration form and you will receive an invoice through PayPal that can be paid with a credit card), or by IDT (email the completed registration form to jpselig@uams.edu with a note that you will be paying by IDT to Account #: 117-1003693, GL Code: 631400 and include the account to be charged).