Category Archives: News Releases

GRU Confucius Institute announces new leadership


Cindi chance
Dr. Cindi Chance, director of the Confucius Institute

Dr. Cindi Chance has been named director of the Georgia Regents University Confucius Institute. Chance previously served as the dean of the GRU College of Education for three years.

“I’m honored to represent this cultural centerpiece that brings GRU and the local Chinese community together,” Chance said. “Chinese heritage in the Augusta area is so rich, dating back to the late 1800s. I’m looking forward to continue honoring this heritage through the Confucius Institute and working side-by-side with the Chinese government to promote Chinese language and culture on our campus and in the CSRA.”

“In a world that is getting smaller and more interconnected, global awareness and cultural competency are essential skills to have,” GRU President Dr. Brooks Keel said. “The Confucius Institute is a great initiative that helps bring those skills to our students and to the Augusta area. We are confident that Dr. Chance will build upon the excellent work this institute has already done at our university and our community.”

Keel, who was named GRU president in July, also joins the Confucius Institute board.

Dr. Quincy Byrdsong, vice president for academic planning and strategic initiatives, will also oversee the institute’s academic programs and other initiatives. Byrdsong, who served as the associate vice president for health sciences strategic initiatives and engagement at Virginia Commonwealth University, joined GRU on Aug. 1.

Quincy Byrdsong_EdD_Associate Vice President for Health Sciences
Dr. Quincy Byrdsong, vice president for academic planning and strategic initiatives

“With China being such an important country politically and economically, studying the Chinese language and culture is of great benefit to our students and our community,” Byrdsong said. “I’m excited to help lead the Confucius Institute, enhancing multicultural awareness in our community as well as expanding GRU’s global presence.”

GRU is among 400 universities across the globe that has an institute that promotes the study of the Chinese language and culture. The GRU Confucius Institute, however, is the first to be affiliated with a comprehensive academic medical center and the first in the Western Hemisphere to focus on traditional Chinese medicine.

The nonprofit, public institute opened its doors on March 28, 2014, and is the result of a partnership between GRU and the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, one of the oldest and most notable universities in China for the study of TCM.

The unique partnership was announced in July 2013 with the authorization of the Office of Chinese Language Council International under the Ministry of Education of China.

Click here for coverage of Chinese artist LiHong Li’s donation of a landscape painting to the Confucius Institute.

Chinese artist donates painting to Confucius Institute

LiHong Li, an artist from Nanjing, China, gifted one of her landscape paintings to the GRU Confucius Institute at a luncheon on Aug. 20. The event also served as the first meeting of the new leadership of the institute with representatives of the local Chinese community.

GRU is among 400 universities across the globe that has an institute that promotes the study of the Chinese language and culture. The GRU Confucius Institute, however, is the first to be affiliated with a comprehensive academic medical center and the first in the Western Hemisphere to focus on traditional Chinese medicine.

The nonprofit, public institute opened March 28, 2014, and is the result of a partnership between GRU and the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, one of the oldest and most notable universities in China for the study of TCM.

5 websites to keep you up-to-date on Election 2016


AUGUSTA, Ga. – Political news on social media and other online sources could play a big role in the 2016 presidential elections as tech-savvy millennials outnumber baby boomers for the first time.

People born between 1982 and 2000 are the most populous generation in the country this year, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. A total of 83.1 million Americans are millennials compared to 75.4 million baby boomers, those born in 1946 through 1964.

Also, 74 percent of the news the tech-savvy generation consumes comes from online sources, according to a recent research by Media Insight Project. About 6 in 10 millennials get their political news from Facebook, according to a Pew Research Center report released in June.

“Millennials know how to use social networking applications better than baby boomers,” said Dr. Craig Albert, assistant professor of political science at Georgia Regents University. “They have a different type of access to information, and that tends to affect whether or not they are going to vote. This could also affect how they vote if they go out to vote. ”

With online sources becoming more important for political news, Albert recommends five websites where voters can get reliable information on political issues and the 2016 presidential candidates:

  • Real Clear Politics: Voters who want to know which presidential candidate is leading on the latest polls should use this website. Surveys come from different states and from different polling institutions. Some of the polls even pit Democratic candidates against GOP contenders.
  • Ballotpedia: As a nonpartisan political website, Ballotpedia offers information on all Democratic and Republican candidates, including their policy on a wide range of issues such as taxes, health care, education and immigration. Voters can also find out which politicians may join the race and which ones declined to run. Ballotpedia also has information on upcoming presidential debates.
  • Politico: Although Politico has a liberal agenda, it is a reliable source of political news. As long as voters know the website leans Democrat, they can enjoy a wide range of news including foreign affairs, environmental policy and even political scandals.
  • Conservative Review: This website is for voters who want to learn more about the Republican presidential candidates. Voters can read about the views that candidates have on issues such as government spending, civil liberties and education. The website also grades candidates on how conservative they are on those issues.
  • 270 to Win: This website, which is also an app, is useful on election day as it shows how many electoral college votes each state has, how many states and electoral college votes a candidate needs to win and which candidate is likely to win each state and overall. Voters can also play with an interactive map and create their own 2016 election forecast.


Shiao named College of Nursing’s associate dean for research

Pam Shiao

Dr. S. Pamela K. Shiao, professor of Doctoral Programs in the School of Nursing at Azusa Pacific University, has been appointed associate dean for Research and E. Louise Grant Endowed Chair of Nursing in the College of Nursing at Georgia Regents University, effective Sept. 1.

In this position, Shiao will provide leadership to advance the College research mission through faculty and student scholarship. She also will collaborate with the college’s leadership team on pertinent research issues and opportunities and lead the nursing faculty and students in innovative studies. In addition, she will help advance the College’s teaching mission as a professor and director of the PhD in Nursing program.

“Dr. Shiao is an established investigator who brings enthusiasm, international connections, and extensive experience in research and research training to this position,” said Dr. Lucy Marion, dean of GRU’s College of Nursing. “She possesses the qualities needed for this role, and we look forward to her leadership as we work to fulfill the campus and college research missions.”

 Shiao is an internationally recognized researcher in the areas of nursing innovations and disseminations, health care informatics and technology, and human genome studies with emphasis on epigenetics.

Her work has been the subject of more than 100 publications, and she has served on NIH and other scientific review panels for Genetics for Healthcare and Nursing, Magnet Advancement-Nursing Workforce and Informatics and Technology.

 Shiao has held senior leadership positions at several academic institutions and served as a consultant to nursing administration at the St. Joseph Hospital in Houston, Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Houston and the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital System in Philadelphia.

 Shiao earned her bachelor’s degree from the National Taiwan University, a master’s degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a doctoral degree from Case Western Reserve University. She is a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing.

Registration for Innovation Summit 2015 begins

AUGUSTA, Ga. – If you have a great idea and want to turn it into the next big thing, you could get help for free.

Beginning today, registration is open for the Innovation Summit 2015, sponsored by the Office of Innovation Commercialization and the Hull College of Business at GRUand the Savannah River National Laboratory.

Experienced innovators speaking at the event will share trends, strategies and advice and could assist people in transforming their big ideas into great products and services.

“We’re very excited to host this third annual event which celebrates innovation, highlights how that innovation moves into the marketplace, and inspires us all to take those next steps and dare to make a difference,” said Chris McKinney, associate vice president of Innovation Commercialization at GRU.

The event will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 at the Salvation Army Kroc Center at 1833 Broad St. in Augusta. There’s no cost to attend the summit, but space is limited. You must register in advance at Breakfast and lunch are included.

For more information, visit or contact Rachel Solomon in the Office of Innovation Commercialization at or (706) 721-0153.

CHOG celebrates record $1.35 million in donations

The 2015 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals broadcast celebrated a record-breaking $1,356,058 in donations for Children’s Hospital of Georgia.

The local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Celebration, which aired from noon to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23, on WRDW-TV News 12, celebrated a record-breaking $1,356,058 in donations to benefit the services and programs at Children’s Hospital of Georgia, the area’s only children’s hospital.

The total represents an accumulation of all CMN Hospitals fundraisers, campaigns, and other donations in 2014 to the children’s hospital from various supporters and partners, as well as new pledges and donations raised over the weekend through a telethon.

This was the first CMN Hospitals Celebration for new Georgia Regents University President Dr. Brooks Keel.

“It has been a very exciting day of showcasing the excellent care provided to patients and families at Children’s Hospital of Georgia. I have enjoyed watching the miracle stories and hearing how the medical care right here in Augusta is saving so many young lives,” Keel said. “And to top $1 million for the first time ever … at my first telethon … is very special. Thanks to everyone for your support for the Children’s Hospital, where miracles are happening every day.”

The 154-bed CHOG is the second-largest children’s hospital in the state, providing the highest level of pediatric critical care and neonatal intensive care, as well as a wide range of general and complex health care for children.

A not-for-profit, CHOG relies on community support to provide patient care services to children and families and has been a beneficiary of CMN Hospitals since 1986. About $906,000 was raised for CHOG through CMN events last year. Before this year’s record, the highest year of donations was close to $915,000 in 2013.

Ice buckets are empty, but ALS coffers still need filling

Patients, families, employees and friends will Beat Feet for ALS at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, at Augusta’s Riverwalk in an effort to raise money for the GRHealth ALS Clinic.

This annual fundraising walk posted a record year in 2014, pulling in almost $145,000 in donations, perhaps driven in part by the popularity and timing of the ice bucket challenge – a unique dare that several Georgia Regents University leaders participated in to raise financial support for ALS.

But much more funding is needed, says ALS Clinic Director Dr. Michael H. Rivner, in order to explore better treatments and improve the quality of life for patients with this debilitating disease that kills most patients within two to five years.

“With ALS, the muscles start to deteriorate rapidly until you are essentially trapped inside your own body, and there is no cure,” said Rivner, Charbonnier Professor of Neurology at GRU’s Medical College of Georgia. “There’s no way to sugarcoat it; ALS is a death sentence.”

But effects of the disease vary, and many people can live with quality in their last years with the help of nationally accredited clinics like the one at Georgia Regents Medical Center.

The clinic, which opened in 2004 through a partnership between the Georgia Regents Neuroscience Center and the ALS Association of Georgia, takes a multidisciplinary and coordinated approach to patient care. Instead of scheduling multiple appointments and trips, patients are able to see neurologists; nurses; physical, occupational and speech therapists; social workers; dietitians; respiratory therapists; and equipment specialists all on the same day. This is especially helpful for ALS patients because of diminishing mobility.

The Georgia Regents ALS team sees patients on the second Friday of each month in Augusta and the fourth Friday of each month at a satellite clinic in Macon. They assess disease progression, functional status, family concerns, and equipment, transportation and referral needs. In addition, family and caregiver training and support are incorporated into the time spent with each patient.

It could cost as much as $250,000 a year to treat just one patient with ALS, so fundraising dollars are financing medical equipment and therapies – often not covered by health insurance – such as wheelchair ramps, home modifications and speech and breathing assistance devices. Funds are also used to purchase gas cards and other items for patients and families who are under financial strains due to ALS.

In addition, donations are supporting several vital research efforts, including a clinical trial of a new ALS drug that follows disease progression and a study on ALS antibodies.

“We were able to fund a pilot project which allowed us to study LRP4 and Agrin antibodies in ALS. Our research thus far has identified these antibodies in around 10 percent of patients with ALS, generating a lot of excitement in the ALS research community,” Rivner said. “If this allows us to pinpoint the cause of ALS in that 10 percent of patients, then perhaps we can identify these patients more quickly and develop better treatments for them.”

Funds raised from the Beat Feet for ALS Walk also support programs administered by the ALS Associations of Georgia and South Carolina and the Muscular Dystrophy Association for patients and families affected by ALS.

To register for the walk or make a donation, visit or contact Brandy Quarles at or 706-721-2681. You can also make a donation directly to the Georgia Regents ALS Clinic on the website or make a check payable to ALS Clinic (Fund 1078) and mail it to 1120 15th St., BP-4390, Augusta, GA 30912.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named for the late first baseman and power hitter for the New York Yankees. Gehrig was stricken with the neurodegenerative disease that causes muscular atrophy and forced into retirement at age 36. It claimed his life two years later.

About 6,000 people are diagnosed with ALS each year. The GRHealth ALS Clinic cares for about 150 patients between the Augusta and Macon locations.

National Disaster Life Support Foundation signs agreement to make courses available in China

The National Disaster Life Support Foundation, based at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University, has signed an agreement with the Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in Shanghai and Xingcheng Medical Consulting & Services Company to teach standardized courses on disaster support throughout China.

The courses are part of a program designed to help a wide array of providers – from police to paramedics to hospital administrators and firefighters – best work together in the aftermath of natural and man-made disasters. It was developed as an outgrowth of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing, when it became apparent that responding agencies are often trained differently.

The program includes a Core Disaster Life Support Course® that gives hospital-based and frontline medical providers the essentials of natural and man-made disaster management. Basic and advanced courses offer progressively more hands-on training and knowledge. The overarching goal is to give all types of responders a common knowledge base and jargon and to eliminate ambiguity, said Dr. Richard Schwartz, chairman of the MCG Department of Emergency Medicine and Hospitalists Services, who had the original idea for the program.

The courses, first introduced in 1999, were developed by the Medical College of Georgia, University of Georgia, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and the University of Texas at Houston’s School of Public Health. The nonprofit National Disaster Life Support Foundation was established in 2004 to oversee the program, and they began a partnership with the American Medical Association to widely disseminate the program in 2006.

Today, there are about 90 domestic training sites, and courses have been taught in 49 states and in more than 20 foreign countries. There are training sites in 11 countries, including places like Mexico, Japan, India and Saudi Arabia, and now China, the world’s most populous country.

“The courses are unique and valuable because they are standardized across all disciplines of first responders; they deal with all types of hazards, and they are competency based,” said Jack Horner, executive director of the NDLSF. “To date, more than 120,000 students have been trained, and a growing number of health professional schools have added the program to their curriculum. Disasters know no borders and they know no language barrier either.”

Cannonball Kids’ cancer presents $100,000 research grant to Theodore Johnson, team

Cannonball Kids’ cancer, an Orlando, Florida-based nonprofit dedicated to eradicating pediatric cancer, presented its first research grant for $100,000 to Dr. Theodore Johnson and his team at the GRU Cancer Center. The grant will help fund a Phase I pediatric brain cancer immunotherapy clinical trial which may impact how brain and other childhood cancers are treated.

“This isn’t just funding research, this is funding a future for our kids. If we don’t fight for them, no one will.” said CKc co-founder Melissa Wiggins.

Johnson’s trial explores and tests new immunotherapy treatment options, which may change the paradigm of how pediatric cancer is treated. The immune system is naturally able to identify and destroy cancer cells. In order for cancer to grow, it must evade or disable the immune system. The body has checkpoint pathways, including one called IDO. Tumors use the IDO enzyme to escape the body’s natural ability to kill the cancer. Johnson and the team at the GRU Cancer Center have developed a drug, indoximod, which blocks the IDO, allowing the immune system to do its job.

“Brain tumors are the most common solid tumors in children, with more than 3,500 new cases each year. More children die each year from brain tumors, nearly 2,700 per year, than any other cancer,” Johnson said. “Immunotherapy treats cancer by enlisting the body’s own immune system to specifically seek out cancer cells and eliminate them, ideally leaving normal tissue undamaged. Immunotherapy is more natural and potentially less toxic than ‘high-dose’ chemotherapy, and it is likely to work better in children because their underlying immune systems are stronger than adult immune systems. Funding from organizations like Cannonball Kids’ cancer is critical to advancing innovative immunotherapy research in children.”

 “We are incredibly pleased and proud to be able to partner with Cannonball Kids’ cancer,” said Dr. Samir Khleif, director of the GRU Cancer Center. “Dr. Johnson’s research is a reflection of the level of excellent discovery occurring at the GRU Cancer Center, allowing us to help our patients with the latest innovations of new therapies for adults and pediatrics. More than merely a validation of the kind of innovative research and patient care we consider so important to our youngest patients, this partnership represents continued growth within our Cancer Center family — something we see as foundational for our continued success.”

In early 2015, the CKc board of directors met with several CEOs of established nonprofit organizations dedicated to childhood cancer to best determine where its research grant would have maximum impact. Johnson’s research study stood out to the CKc board after their meeting with Jay and Liz Scott, co-executive directors of Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

“Dr. Johnson’s clinical trial was especially striking to us. We knew this was our guy. Dr. Johnson is going to make a footprint in pediatric immunotherapy, and we are going to help him help kids around the world,” said CKc co-founder Michael Wiggins.

Funds were raised through a variety of grass-roots efforts including community-wide events, school fundraisers, CKc Card Club events, golf tournaments, online and personal donations, ballroom dancing events and proceeds from the sale of the book “Thankful For The Fight,” written by the Wiggins family about their journey to save Cannon’s life. Events and fundraisers have been held both domestically and internationally, reaching as far as Hong Kong.

“Our hearts are so grateful for each and every dollar and every person who donated funds to join our fight against childhood cancer. Every one, ten, hundred or thousand dollar donation was critical to us successfully reaching our goal of raising $100,000 in our first year. When the donations are added up, the total impact we have is incredible,” said Melissa Wiggins.

“Our team is devoted and dedicated to finding a cure for childhood cancer. ‘Go big or go home’ is our motto. This is just the beginning,” stated CKc chief executive officer Ashley VanDerMark.

About Cannonball Kid’s cancer

Based in College Park, Florida, Cannonball Kids’ cancer was founded in June 2014 by Michael and Melissa Wiggins, parents of Cannon Wiggins. When Cannon was 20 months old, he was diagnosed with Stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma. During the treatment of Cannon, Michael and Melissa learned so little time, effort and funding is devoted to finding cures for children’s cancer compared to adult cancers, and as a result, children are unnecessarily and unjustly lost. CKc aims to stop the tragic reality of children suffering and dying because of the lack of research in the world of children’s cancer treatments.

The “c” in cancer in the name Cannonball Kids’ cancer is intentionally lowercase to give the word cancer an inferior status.

Two proteins work together to help cells eliminate trash and Parkinson’s may result when they don’t

Two proteins that share the ability to help cells deal with their trash appear to need each other to do their jobs and when they don’t connect, it appears to contribute to development of Parkinson’s disease, scientists report.

Much like a community’s network for garbage handling, cells also have garbage sites called lysosomes, where proteins, which are functioning badly because of age or other reasons, go for degradation and potential recycling, said Dr. Wen-Cheng Xiong, developmental neurobiologist and Weiss Research Professor at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.

Inside lysosomes, other proteins, called proteases, help cut up proteins that can no longer do their job and enable salvaging of things like precious amino acids. It’s a normal cell degradation process called autophagy that actually helps cells survive and is particularly important in cells such as neurons, which regenerate extremely slowly, said Xiong, corresponding author of the study in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Key to the process – and as scientists have shown, to each other – are two more proteins, VPS35 and Lamp2a. VPS35 is essential for retrieving membrane proteins vital to cell function. Levels naturally decrease with age, and mutations in the VPS35 gene have been found in patients with a rare form of Parkinson’s. VPS35 also is a critical part of a protein complex called a retromer, which has a major role in recycling inside cells. Lamp2a enables unfit proteins to be chewed up and degraded inside lysosomes.

If the two sound like a natural couple, scientists now have more evidence that they are. They have shown that without VPS35 to retrieve Lamp2a from the trash site for reuse, Lamp2a, or lysosomal-associated membrane protein 2, will be degraded and its vital function lost.

When the scientists generated VPS35-deficient mice, the mice exhibited Parkinson’s-like deficits, including impaired motor control. When they looked further, they found the lysosomes inside dopamine neurons, which are targets in Parkinson’s, didn’t function properly in the mice. In fact, without VPS35, the degradation of Lamp2a itself is accelerated. Consequently, yet another protein, alpha-synuclein, which is normally destroyed by Lamp2a, is increased. Alpha-synuclein is a major component of abnormal protein clumps, called Lewy bodies, found in the brains of patients with Parkinson’s.

“If alpha-synuclein is not degraded, it just accumulates. If VPS35 function is normal, we won’t see its accumulation,” Xiong said.

Conversely, when MCG scientists increased expression of Lamp2a in the dopamine neurons of the VPS35-deficient mice, alpha-synuclein levels were reduced, a finding that further supports the linkage of the three proteins in the essential ability of the neurons to deal with undesirables in their lysosomes.

Without lamp2a, dopamine neurons essentially start producing more garbage rather than eliminating it. Recycling of valuables such as amino acids basically stops, and alpha-synuclein is free to roam to other places in the cell or other brain regions where it can damage still viable proteins.

The bottom line is dopamine neurons are lost instead of preserved. Brain scans document the empty spaces where neurons used to be in patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. One of the many problems with treatment of these diseases is that by the time the empty spaces and sometimes the associated symptoms are apparent, much damage has occurred, Xiong said.

Putting these pieces together provides several new, early targets for disease intervention. “Everything is linked,” Xiong said.

Dopamine is a brain chemical with many roles, including motor control, and patients with Parkinson’s have a loss of the neurons that secrete this neurotransmitter. At least in mice, VPS35 is naturally expressed in dopamine neurons in areas of the brain affected by Parkinson’s.

Xiong and her colleagues reported in 2011 that reduced expression of VPS35 enables activity of the dormant-in-healthy-adults protein BACE1 to increase along with accumulation of the brain plaque that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Xiong said then that impaired VPS35 function likely also was a factor in Parkinson’s.

In a definite vicious circle, trash starts overwhelming the brain cell’s natural garbage disposal system. Proteins start getting misfolded and dysfunctional, potentially destructive proteins such as BACE1 and Lamp2a end up in the wrong place and get activated/inactivated, while good proteins get chopped up and/or bad proteins accumulate.

Parkinson’s disease is characterized by uncontrolled shaking, an unstable gait and cognitive loss. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Fulei Tang is the study’s first author.