All posts by Stacey Hudson

Kinesiology professor brings cycling expertise to Augusta

[Click here to view this story on Jagwire.]

Cycling is a growing sport, expected to double in revenue in the next five years, according to an industry report by IBISWorld.

Dr. Amos Meyers, newly hired assistant professor of kinesiology in the GRU College of Education, hopes to encourage that interest here in Augusta.

“I study sports biomechanics. What equipment does an athlete use, and how can we change that to facilitate their movement? If they’re moving efficiently, does that translate to physiological efficiency?” Meyers said.

While the research theme is open to application, his dissertation concentrated on the connection between the shoe and the pedal in cycling. There are three points of contact on a bike – the hands, seat and feet. The first two are fairly static connections. The last requires a great deal of movement from the muscles and joints.

“There are so many variables you can change, and not a lot of research on what those changes should be,” Meyers said.

As a professor, Meyers brings a wealth of teaching experience at both the University of Miami and the University of Pittsburgh, along with coaching experience in cycling, rowing and swimming.

Meyers said that he had really good mentors in the classroom and wants to model for his students what was modeled for him. That includes effectiveness and enthusiasm for the subject and for research in his field.

“I love what I do,” he said. “And I love what the field does: It’s cool, it’s exciting, it’s important. I try to pass on that feeling to students.”

Meyers has a growing list of articles and conference presentations and has worked on three different research grants. He is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and USA Cycling. He also reviews articles for the Journal of Emerging Investigators, a journal dedicated to exposing middle and high schoolers to the academic publication process.

Meyers received his bachelor’s degree from Angelo State University, master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and doctoral degree from the University of Miami.

GRU Literacy Center to open two satellite centers

AUGUSTA, GA. – Just in time for the school year, the GRU Literacy Center announced that it will open two new locations to serve the community. On Sept. 8, the Augusta-Richmond County Library on Telfair Street and Paine College will both open satellite locations for the GRU College of Education to address illiteracy rates in the CSRA.

“We have simply outgrown our current location,” said Dr. Paulette Harris, founder and director of the GRU Literacy Center. Harris is the Cree-Walker Endowed Professor of Education for the GRU College of Education.

The current facility only allows them to reach about 1,000 people a month, but Georgia’s Task Force on Adult Literacy estimates that one out of three adult Georgians is functionally illiterate. In the Augusta area alone, there are more than 65,000 adults whose basic educational levels are less than those of the average eighth grader. And so Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System and Paine College have offered space in partnership with the center, with Paine College focusing on mathematics literacy, also known as numeracy.

“Literacy is the foundation for civilization,” said Russell Liner, assistant director for public services for the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System. “Throughout history, the ability to read was power. In the Middle Ages, the nobility kept education from the masses to protect their power. And in American history, we disenfranchised certain groups because we were afraid they’d use their knowledge against us. The purpose of the library system is to bring access to knowledge to the public. So offering facilities for the GRU Literacy Center just dovetails with our larger mission.”

Paine College’s Department of Mathematics, Sciences and Technology will foster mathematics literacy with volunteers from students in their upper-level classes and faculty and alumni. The volunteers will help ensure that students have a basic competency in algebra and in the standards set in local school systems and in the colleges.

“Mathematics is as crucial to success in life as reading,” said Dr. Raul Peters, chair of the department. “Early math mastery is predictive of success in high school and college and also impacts adult lives. Career-wise, algebra is used by a wide range of professionals, from electricians to computer scientists to architects. But even in our personal lives, we use math – from calculating the best price on a sale item to figuring out an appropriate tip at a restaurant to higher-level life choices like understanding compounding interest or financing the purchase of a house.”

Both of the satellite center openings are part of the center’s celebration of International Literacy Day, organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which highlights the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.

The importance of literacy is that it impacts everything from poverty and income level to incarceration rates. Nearly two-thirds of illiterate adults are employed, but most struggle to find stable employment at a family-sustaining wage, according to the most recent data from the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). A low ability to read leads to limited opportunities for employment or income generation, higher chances of poor health, propensity toward crime and dependence on social welfare. For example, 70 percent of prison inmates cannot read.

Research makes it clear that we must do everything in our power to ensure that children do not fall behind in their reading skills,” Harris said. “With the help of our volunteers, most of whom are certified teachers, we are privileged to work on everything from born-to-read to lifelong literacy.”

All students start by getting evaluated so they can get a personalized learning experience. The center addresses learning differences like dyslexia and other problems that may not have been fully addressed in a student’s educational experience. And the staff works hard to provide a safe space for older adults, including later hours and providing additional options.

“And we will continue to work with them as long as they would like to continue to grow,” she said.

The GRU Literacy Center is located at 1401 Magnolia Dr., Augusta. Call 706-737-1625, or visit gru.edu/colleges/education/lcenter.

Leadership invited to Scotland to present on innovative Ed.D. program

When the GRU College of Education launched its Educational Doctorate in Educational Innovation, international acclaim was not the first goal on the list of program objectives. But in July, to acclaim, members of the college’s leadership presented a session on redefining the education doctorate at the UK Council for Graduate Education’s Annual Conference 2015 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Dr. Cindi Chance, recently retired dean of the college, and Dr. Wayne Lord, associate dean, represented Georgia Regents University and presented in conjunction with Dr. Jon Engelhardt from Baylor University and Dr. Tracy Elder from the University of Georgia. The presentation shared how three distinctly different universities were applying the work of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) to their respective programs.

CPED is an action-oriented initiative to institute a clear distinction between the professional practice doctorate in education and the education research doctorate. Only 87 institutions across the globe – including the GRU College of Education – were accepted to the prestigious Carnegie program.

The three universities each presented different perspectives on how to implement the Carnegie principles in a doctoral program.

“Post-grad programs are engaged in conversations in the U.K. about doctoral study and challenges of their tradition and what innovative practices are being tried in universities,” Lord said. “So they are looking to successful programs for ideas and guidance.”

One important aspect of a successful doctoral program in education is applicability of student research, Lord said. Sometimes doctoral students focus on how their study can impact their work in a university setting – rather than leading to possible solutions to real-world challenges.

“Our Ed.D. in Educational Innovation prepares educators to respond to persistent problems of practice. By emphasizing research capabilities ‘in context,’ Ed.D. students can advocate for innovations.”

More than 120 international leaders in the field of education attended the conference.

“The conference attendees expressed a lot of interest in the work we’re doing and commented that it should have been a keynote presentation. So we’re excited about representing the kind of work GRU and the College of Education are doing to innovate and discover new ways to have a positive impact,” Lord said.

Visit gru.edu/coe/edd to learn more about the Educational Doctorate in Educational Innovation at Georgia Regents University.

GRU professor fights violence, human trafficking

Estimates say that up to 2 million people across the globe are forced into human trafficking rings each year. The majority of these are young women.

In Belize, a small country of only 350,000 people on the Caribbean coast of Central America, the threat of human trafficking has grown over the past decade. The Belize Young Women’s Christian Association turned to a GRU professor for help.

Dr. Denise Lenares Solomon, Assistant Professor of Counselor Education in the College of Education, is originally from Belize and has presented on and researched human trafficking and forced prostitution.

“Belize has become a destination for human trafficking. A common form of human trafficking in Belize is commercial sexual exploitation of children,” she said. “My focus is bringing awareness and education to young people in school and also to teachers and school counselors. They can be the person who can prevent that from happening.”

The country was slapped with a scathing report from the U.S. State Department in June. But the problem was already well-known. The World YWCA funded a project for the Belize YWCA to address gender-based violence, which includes human trafficking. Lenares Solomon was invited to create a training toolkit for educators and community organizations that would assist them in identifying children engaged in sex trafficking or being groomed by traffickers.

Traffickers who groom victims gain the child’s parents’ trust by befriending them, then by befriending the child. They may also act as a teenager’s boyfriend, showering the unsuspecting teen with gifts and affection before luring her into a position to be exploited.

“That’s the image I give them. The guy who woos them. I want to bring it local. They know what sex trafficking is, but they see dramatizations on TV and associate it with that. They don’t think about it as being people they know, people they care about,” Lenares Solomon said.

Already her work has made a difference. As Lenares Solomon was explaining this to a group of teens, one teen realized that she was being trafficked. Child labor is common in Belize, and the girl had been hired to work at a bar. Eventually, she was promoted to manager. Shortly after, she was pressured into stripping for private parties.

“She said, ‘I thought it was just a job that I was doing,’” Lenares Solomon said. “But the owner of that bar had groomed her for two years.”

Several of the workshops were held in rural areas of the country, and the organizers were pleasantly surprised to find a high level of interest from local parents.

While in the country working with the YWCA, Lenares Solomon also facilitated two workshops at the first Belize School Counsellor’s [sic] Association Conference. She helped train school counselors to develop a guidance counseling program in their schools and to create a crisis plan for their schools. She also addressed human trafficking in her crisis workshops.

“Not only advocating so that they can recognize when it is occurring, but also to inform them about what resources are available,” Lenares Solomon said.

One teacher at the workshop shared an experience she had after she overheard a conversation between two schoolgirls through an open window. The girls were talking about their new boyfriends who had bought them gifts and were going to take them across the border into Mexico for a party.

“The scenario rang alarm bells for her. She was able to notify the authorities, and she saved those girls from disappearing,” Lenares Solomon said. “If more people had this kind of training, more children could be saved.”

Some of the warning signs for children being groomed for prostitution include:

  • More frequent absences, unexplained absences
  • Suddenly in possession of material goods not within family’s income limitations
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • A new group of friends
  • Withdrawal from or loss of interest in age-appropriate activities
  • Sudden change in dress, hygiene, or grooming
  • Sudden change in personality

Georgia Health Sciences unveils first enterprise-wide strategic plan

The Georgia Health Sciences enterprise has unveiled an eight-year strategic plan to propel its status as a globally recognized research university and academic health center.

Transformation 2020, crafted with the input and feedback of countless Georgia Health Sciences students, faculty and staff members, includes:

• The Georgia Health Sciences mission: To lead Georgia and the world to better health by providing excellence in biomedical education, discovery and service
• Georgia Health Sciences values: Collaboration, compassion, diversity, excellence, innovation, integrity and leadership—with each value referencing related and complementary ideals
• The Georgia Health Sciences vision: To be a globally recognized research university and academic health center, while transforming the region into a health care and biomedical destination
• Georgia Health Sciences’ six strategic priorities, including goals and objectives.

“This living, breathing roadmap ensures we will stay on course as we fulfill our mission, embody our values and actualize our vision,” said Dr. Ricardo Azziz, President of Georgia Health Sciences University and CEO of the Georgia Health Sciences Health System.

In August 2010, shortly after beginning his tenure as President, Azziz formed an Enterprise-Wide Strategic Planning Task Force to guide short-term goals while supporting a long-term strategic initiative. The process, which engaged hundreds of members of the enterprise, yielded 200 initiatives, all of which are either complete or in various stages of disposition. “More importantly,” Azziz said, “the process laid the groundwork for Transformation 2020, the most inclusive, representative, forward-thinking and far-reaching document in the history of this enterprise.”

The Transformation 2020 Council appointed Strategic Priority Work Groups to develop priorities based on the enterprise’s mission, values and vision. These priorities guided the development of goals and objectives. Throughout the process, council and task force members conducted extensive research to benchmark, quantify and justify their data, studying best practices and strategic priorities in like and aspirant institutions in the focus areas of education, research, clinical care, diversity, partnerships and resources.

Every member of the enterprise, as well as select external constituents, were invited to review a draft of the document.

All of this feedback was personally responded to and, in many cases, incorporated into the final document. “Not a single concern went undiscussed or unaddressed,” Azziz said.

As far-reaching as the document is, “it is just a start,” stressed Dr. Joseph Hobbs, Transformation 2020 Co-Chair and Department of Family Medicine Chair. “It will serve as a roadmap to our mission-based teams who will develop the specific tactics to effect and ensure the success of the goals and objectives at every level of our enterprise.

Noted Joe Thornton, Transformation 2020 Co-Chair and Assistant Vice President of Ambulatory Care Finance, “Transformation 2020 also will serve as a launching point when GHSU consolidates with Augusta State University in 2013.”

Azziz, who will serve as President of the consolidated university, said, “We must be clear on who we are before we can determine who we aspire to be. A resounding affirmation of our identity — our mission, values, vision and priorities — will ensure that we bring our best efforts to the table when we join ranks with our illustrious sister institution.”
For more information or to read the document in full, visit georgiahealth.edu/transformation2020.

Regents approve request to state for downtown property

The Board of Regents Real Estate & Facilities Committee approved a request on March 13 to ask the state to transfer the site of the former Georgia Golf Hall of Fame to GHSU.

The request will be sent to the state legislature.

The property has languished beside the Savannah River since 2010, when the former members of the board of the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame voted to disband, and the Georgia legislature dissolved the organization. The 16-acre site currently houses a parking lot, a brick pergola, brick paths, two small outbuildings and a small putting course. The site has been neglected since the Golf Hall of Fame shut its gates in June 2007. In September of that year, the bronze sculptures of famous golfers were removed and placed in storage.

The property is still owned by the state, although there is no approved funding for its upkeep. The land is also still restricted from private development until the bonds the state used to purchase the land in 1996 mature.

No firm plans exist yet for the site, but GHSU President Ricardo Azziz has publicly suggested a biotech innovation center, student housing and academic programs.

Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver had previously suggested the property as a good location for a new baseball stadium for the Augusta GreenJackets.

Madi to expand robotics expertise at GHSU

By Jennifer Hilliard Scott

Dr. Rabii Madi, a urologic oncologist and the former Director of Robotic Surgery at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, has joined the faculty at Georgia Health Sciences University.

Madi, who has performed more than 400 robotic surgeries and has written more than 40 abstracts and articles on the topic, is renowned in the surgical treatment of prostate, kidney and bladder cancers. His expertise includes the single-surgery removal of prostate and kidney cancers and single-incision kidney removals. He also is one of only a few physicians nationwide who performs robotic salvage prostatectomy, which is often necessary when prostate cancer recurs after radiation treatment.

“On average, about 20 or 30 percent of prostate cancers come back after radiation,” Madi said. “Radiation treatment creates a lot of scar tissue, which can make surgical removal of the prostate more complicated.”

At GHSU, Madi is helping develop a robotics center, which will centralize robotic surgery campuswide in specialties including otolaryngology, urogynecology, gynecological oncology, urology and general surgery. His expertise includes robotic surgery for prostate, kidney and bladder cancers as well as adrenal and reconstructive procedures.

“Dr. Madi will focus our robotics efforts across the enterprise,” said Dr. Charles Howell, Chairman of the Department of Surgery. “With his expertise, we will be able to further expand an area that is really becoming the standard of care for some surgeries. We are always looking for ways to treat our patients that cause them the least time away from their daily activities, have lower morbidity rates and have comparable or even better outcomes.”

GHSU’s new da Vinci three-dimensional robot enables physicians to train residents during procedures and to practice procedures via simulation, Howell said. The robot also features Firefly fluorescence imaging, which uses near-infrared imaging to detect dye injected into the blood. The dye helps identify vascular flow and distinguish normal from cancerous tissue.

“Robotic surgery offers better vision for surgeons, more range of motion and tremorless precision,” Madi added. “For patients, it means less pain, blood loss, scarring and risk of infection, a shorter hospital stay and a faster recovery period.”

Madi earned his medical degree from KURSK State Medical University in Russia and completed a urology residency at the American University of Beirut Medical Center in Lebanon. He completed a clinical fellowship in urologic oncology and laparoscopy at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

He is a member of the American Urological Association and the Society of Urologic Oncology. He also is a reviewer for the Journal of Urology, Urology Oncology, Journal of EndoUrology and Journal of Robotic Surgery.

GHSU bioscience business incubator releases first consumer product

An over-the-counter all-natural chewing gum designed to relieve mild to severe symptoms of xerostamia, or dry mouth, is the first consumer product developed through the Life Sciences Business Development Center at Georgia Health Sciences University.

The center, a business incubator that nurtures entrepreneurial enterprises related to biomedical science, is home to Camellix LLC, a company that will soon launch several dietary and therapeutic product lines based on green tea technology developed by Dr. Stephen Hsu, an Associate Professor in the GHSU College of Dental Medicine.

First on the market is MighTeaFlow gum, a long-lasting spearmint gum that combines the all-natural ingredients of green tea, jaborandi and Xylitol to protect salivary glands and stimulate saliva flow without the side effects of currently available products. Free samples are being distributed in the Augusta area and the product is available for purchase through the company’s website, Camellix.com. A lozenge, mouthwash and toothpaste are in development.

“Nearly 50 million Americans experience dry mouth from time to time,” said Hsu. “It is a huge problem, affecting diabetics, cancer patients being treated with chemotherapy and radiation, and people with auto-immune diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome. More than 400 medications, including those for depression and high blood pressure and many taken by the elderly, can reduce saliva production. Even healthy individuals whose work requires them to talk a great deal can develop dry mouth.”

Without saliva’s protection against bacterial growth and its ability to wash away food particles, xerostamia can lead to serious health complications including tooth decay and gum disease. Swallowing, digestion, the ability to taste, dietary habits, nutrition, speech and tolerance to dental prostheses may also be compromised.

Green tea extract is known to protect salivary gland cells from inflammation, oxidative stress and autoimmune reactions, while jaborandi leaf extract has been used for centuries by native South Americans to induce fluid secretions. Xylitol, a non-fermenting sugar alcohol, is often used in oral hygiene products to prevent cavities and stimulate saliva flow by restoring the mouth’s proper alkaline/acid balance. The ingredients’ synergistic combination stimulates salivary flow naturally.

“Our product is unique because it is based on patented technology and university research,” Hsu said. “Our studies showed genes previously impaired by free radicals are normalized by the green tea polyphenols, lowering the number of free radicals and boosting antioxidant enzymes to reduce dry mouth symptoms. We could literally see the improvement in the blood auto-antibody levels and in the salivary glands of laboratory animals.”

Combining natural salivary stimulants with the antioxidant capabilities of green tea makes MighTeaFlow gum a healthy and convenient choice for dry-mouth sufferers, said Hsu, adding that the gum’s slow-release formula provides relief for about four hours, yet only needs to be chewed approximately one hour to stimulate saliva.

A clinical trial partially supported by an Innovation in Oral Care Award from the International Association for Dental Research is underway at the GHSU College of Dental Medicine’s Department of Oral Health and Diagnostic Sciences. Nearly a dozen GHSU physicians, dentists, pathologists, basic scientists, biostatisticians and dental students have been involved in xerostomia and Sjogren’s syndrome research projects since 2009.
Part of GHSU’s Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development, the Life Sciences Business Development Center is a turnkey site for innovative companies looking to relocate or expand into Georgia. It provides corporate tenants and their sponsoring organizations access to GHSU researchers and research facilities while serving as an economic driver for the state of Georgia.

Student’s work with bacteria garners research award

By Danielle Harris

A red-claw crayfish being studied by Augusta State University biology student Nuvonka Wilson developed a necrotic wound that eventually led to its death. This sudden occurrence encouraged Wilson to rework her research to begin identifying the bacteria associated with the wound.

With the guidance of ASU biology professors Bruce Saul and Christopher Bates, Wilson used various techniques to identify the bacteria.

“We were able to isolate and grow three distinct types of bacteria on nutrient-rich media,” Wilson said. “We then utilized a battery of biochemical and physiological tests to narrow the bacteria to either a member of the genus Acidovorax, Vibrio, Pseudomonas stutzeri or Halomonas aquamarina.”

Wilson says she plans to complete the identification process by utilizing a polymerase chain reaction. She is also screening the bacteria for their susceptibility to various antibiotics.

Wilson has been conducting this research for two years, and her work has garnered her ASU’s 2011 Emil K. Urban Student Research award.

Wilson will present her research during the 13th Annual Phi Kappa Phi Student Research and Fine Arts Conference March 21 at Augusta State University. She will also present her study during the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Georgia Academy of Sciences being held later this month at Kennesaw State University.

Wilson will graduate from Augusta State in May, and she hopes to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.