Tag Archives: College of Allied Health Sciences

Study looks at whether daily limb compressions reduce dementia

A new study is looking at whether short, daily bouts of reduced blood flow to an arm or leg can reduce the ravages of dementia.

It’s called remote conditioning, and researchers say it activates natural protective mechanisms in the brain that should help about half of dementia patients.

The approach uses a blood pressure cuff-like device to temporarily restrict blood flow to an appendage repeatedly for a few minutes each day, which increases blood flow to other body areas, including the brain, said Dr. David Hess, Chairman of the Department of Neurology at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.

Increased flow activates endothelial cells lining blood vessels, calling to action a series of natural protective mechanisms that can be effective wherever blood travels, Hess said. Interestingly, the mechanisms seem most active in areas of impaired flow, such as those deep inside the brain, where most dementia has its roots.

“The most powerful way to protect the brain is to cut off blood flow to it for a short period of time to condition it,” said Hess. “What it does is elicit these protective pathways so when potentially lethal ischemia comes, you can survive it.” What it also appears to do is help permanently improve blood flow to these deep regions of the brain.

Age and being a female are two of the major risk factors for dementia. With nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population age 65 and older and half being female, Hess calls dementia a major health concern. “This is a big epidemic coming. This is a big killer and disabler, and everybody is concerned about this.”

A two-year, $750,000 translational grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke should help Hess and his research team do the additional animal studies needed to move this safe and inexpensive technique for dementia to human studies.

“We think reduced cerebral blood flow, particularly in the deep white matter, is a major trigger of dementia,” Hess said. The white matter is primarily composed of axons, which connect neurons and different areas of the brain to each other and enable the brain to communicate with the body. The white protective coating on the axon is why this deep brain area is called white matter.

Hess, who is also a stroke specialist, says this area is particularly vulnerable to ischemia because the blood vessels that feed it are small and have long, tortuous routes. Strokes and/or impaired blood flow can lead to classic dementia symptoms such as forgetfulness and an unsteady gait.

By age 70, essentially everyone has some white matter disease, but in some it can be devastating. “You cannot go out in a car and find where you are going. You may not even be able to find your car. You can’t cook meals without setting the house on fire,” Hess said.

“What we want to do long term is find people who are at risk for dementia – they already have some white matter damage you can see on an MRI – then we condition them chronically with this device in their home,” Hess said. Chronically is a key word because, as with exercise, when this conditioning stops, so do its benefits. In fact, this passive therapy provides blood vessels many of the same benefits as exercise. “If you can exercise, you probably don’t need this,” Hess adds.

Previous studies in their animal model of vascular dementia have shown that just two weeks of daily, short bouts of ischemia to an appendage can improve the health of the important white matter. The new grant is allowing them to use a similar approach for periods of one and four months in older mice of both genders to better understand the mechanisms of action and how long and how often therapy is needed. While they don’t make as much as human, mice do make more amyloid, a protein that deposits in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s, when brain blood flow is impaired. Mice make less with the conditioning, so the researchers also are looking further at that result.

A small intramural grant is enabling similar studies with a pig model in collaboration with University of Georgia colleagues Dr. Simon R. Platt, professor of neurology and neurosurgery in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Franklin D. West, assistant professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

While he notes that multiple natural mechanisms are activated, Hess and his team are focusing on how the temporary bouts of increased blood flow prompt endothelial cells to make the precursor for the blood vessel dilator nitric oxide.

“The enzyme that makes nitric oxide is upregulated and stimulated quickly,” Hess said. Nitric oxide gas has a short life, but when a lot is dumped in the blood, it’s oxidized into nitrite – the same stuff put in hot dogs – which circulates throughout the bloodstream so it goes wherever blood goes. Although just how this happens is unclear, when the nitrite gets to an area of low blood flow, it is converted back to nitric oxide, which helps improve flow, Hess said.

The MCG researchers are applying for federal funding to do trials in humans who are at high risk for stroke because of small vessel disease deep in the brain. In 2012, they published results of a small study in the journal Stroke indicating that successive, vigorous bouts of leg compressions following a stroke trigger natural protective mechanisms that reduce damage and double the effectiveness of the clot buster tPA. Similar studies have been done by others in patients with heart disease.

Vascular dementia is considered the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. There are currently no drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifically for vascular dementia.

Collaborators at MCG and GRU include Dr. Mohammad B. Khan, postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Hess’ lab; Dr. Nasrul Hoda, College of Allied Health Sciences; Dr. Philip Wang, Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior; Dr. Ali Syed Arbab, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Dr. Nathan Eugene Yanasak, Department of Radiology and Imaging;  and Dr. Jennifer Waller, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology.

College of Allied Health Sciences leads health care professionals into the technological age

Smart technology is the staple of modern living.

It surrounds us from the moment we wake to the moment we sleep in the form of smart phones, laptops, tablets and televisions. If that weren’t troubling enough, today, everything from thumb drives to copiers store our personal information. Thus, there has never been a more opportune – or more frightening – time to work in the field of data management.

But while the James M. Hull College of Business teaches students to use the web to become first-line data defenders, the College of Allied Health Sciences is taking a different approach to its cyber education.

Offered by the Georgia Regents University Department of Clinical and Digital Health Sciences, the Bachelor of Science and postbaccalaureate certificate in Health Information Administration programs represent GRU’s tireless effort to improve health care through the use of technology.

But what exactly do Health Information Administrators do?

In addition to organizing information used in evidence-based medicine, HIAs also arm health care providers with organized evidence to support patient care, reimbursement, teaching, research, quality improvement and legal inquiries. Accomplished in both the art and science of electronic information systems, HIAs advocate for the patient-provider relationship and serve as information suppliers for the business side of evidence-based medicine.

The HIA program began at GRU in 1962 under the direction of Juanita Sirmans. Then part of the Medical College of Georgia, the program was unable to recruit a qualified medical record librarian at the time of its inception. In place of recruiting, then, Sirmans took a year’s leave of absence to attend the U.S. Public Health Service medical record librarian educational program to become qualified herself.

Today, the HIA program maintains that same level of dedication to the education of its students.

Lori Prince, director of the Health Information Administration programs, said the HIA program teaches students a broad spectrum of topics.

“HIA touches every sector of healthcare from the quality of patient care to compliance with regulatory agencies, to implementation of new software for clinical care,” she said. “A critical area of need with personal health information being electronic is archiving, securing and protecting that information, so HIA even plays a major role in cyber security. “

Prince said both programs seek to instill students with the professional knowledge, skills and competencies needed to succeed in the health information management profession.

Courses range from a basic introduction to Health Information Administration in students’ junior year to ethics, medical terminology and data management classes as students progress. According to Prince, graduates of the Health Information Administration programs will be well-prepared to assume an entry-level position in the field.

Both programs are offered completely online, and a list of software and hardware requirements can be found here. The Bachelor of Science in Health Information Administration program is also offered on-campus.

Prince said the decision to host HIA classes online in 1998 was in direct response to applicant interest.

“Many of our applicants, some form as far away as Hawaii, could not physically relocate to Augusta, but wanted to start a career in HIA,” she said. “Around 2005, due to applicant demand, the decision was made to offer the Post-bac program solely online. Today, we still have applicants applying from around the world.”

As with cybersecurity professionals, Prince said there is currently a national shortage of Health Information Administrators, so job prospects for graduates have never looked better.

“In 2014, a Georgia workforce study demonstrated Health IT jobs will continue to increase,” said Prince. “The skill clusters of this workforce will incorporate health information, communication, software and programming skills, critical thinking and problem solving, business management and project management – exactly what a degree or certificate in HIA will provide.”

Sexton to lead GRU Cyber Institute

Joanne Sexton has been named Director of the Georgia Regents University Cyber Institute. Sexton, a former information technology expert for the U.S. Navy, previously served as GRU’s director of Cyber Education Initiatives.

“Joanne’s commitment to the university and her students, as well as her knowledge of cyber will certainly help take our cyber research, education and curriculum to the next level,” said Gretchen Caughman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“Hundreds of millions of records have been involved in data breaches across the globe, and new attack methods are being launched continuously,” said Dr. Brooks Keel, GRU president. “Through our partnership with the U.S. Army Cyber Command, GRU is poised to take a national leadership role in one of the fastest-growing and most needed areas of professional development. We are confident that Joanne can help us get there.”

GRU launched the Cyber Institute in June to develop research, new curriculum and outreach opportunities in cybersecurity. The creation of the institute is a step toward gaining recognition as a Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense.

Before joining GRU, Sexton served as the first commanding officer of what is known today as Navy Information Operations Command Georgia. She has more than 20 years of information technology experience in the Navy, spanning hardware maintenance, software development and support, telecommunications services, computer center operations, software quality assurance, space operations management, project management and information security practice.

Sexton holds master’s degrees in computer science and in national and strategic studies. She is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional and has earned Global Information Assurance Certifications in several areas of cyberdefense, including security essentials, incident handling, intrusion analysis and penetration testing.

The GRU Cyber Institute provides the framework for all things cyber at the university. Current cybersecurity courses and degrees include advanced information assurance through the Hull College of Business,  medical informatics program, focused on protection of health information, through the College of Allied Health Sciences, and courses on cyberterrorism through the Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Fixing Ronald’s heart

11259687_10150581688584999_5830558428567303930_nThe most selfless causes are those that become personal missions.

Three Georgia Regents University physician assistant students showed the world just what selflessness means when they took it upon themselves to save the life a 15-year-old Ugandan boy named Ronald.

Ronald was born with a life-threatening condition known as congenital atrial septal defect (ASD). To truly understand the dangers of ASD, however, one must first understand the heart.

The normal human heart is separated into four chambers – the right and left atria, and the right and left ventricles, respectively. In a healthy heart, a dividing wall known as the interatrial septum prevents blood from the left atria from entering the right atria directly, forcing the blood to instead circulate through the entire heart. Ronald’s heart, however, has a small hole in its interatrial septum. As a result, the right side of his heart works much harder than necessary to compensate, resulting in an abnormal, visible heartbeat.

Sufferers of ASD often have extreme difficulty with physical exertion. In Ronald’s case, he is often unable to make the trip to school, more than a mile’s walk from his village. He is also unable to play soccer, a sport he follows religiously.

In the United States, ASD is most often treated before it becomes a threat to its victim’s health. Unfortunately, Ronald, whose family lives nine hours away from the nearest cardiologist, is in life-threatening danger.

Shelby Boggus, James Torrell, and Lauren Beatty, three GRU PA students who visited Kabale, Uganda, for their clinical rotation, met Ronald after a social worker brought him to a clinic for a checkup.

After meeting Ronald, and later meeting his family, Boggus, Torrel, and Beatty, along with their colleague Alana D’Onofrio, set up a GoFundMe campaign to pay the $30,000 surgery needed to save the boy’s life. As of June 8, the campaign had raised more than $15,000 dollars. The remaining amount was donated on June 9 by the Daniels family in honor and memory of their father, Ted Daniels.

Scheduled in July, surgeons from America, Canada, India, and South Africa will attempt to fix Ronald’s ASD at the Uganda Heart Institute.

With luck, Ronald may soon have the chance to lead a normal life.

GRU launches Cyber Institute

Georgia Regents University is creating the GRU Cyber Institute to develop research, new curriculum, and outreach opportunities in cybersecurity starting this summer.

“We want to be known for cyber,” said Joanne Sexton, Director for GRU Cyber Security Educational Initiatives. “The Augusta area has been growing in this aspect, and we want to be a major player in that.”

GRU has been working toward creating the Cyber Institute for a few years and has already established a cyber curriculum, said Gretchen Caughman, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost . The news that Fort Gordon would become the new headquarters for the U.S. Army Cyber Command only accelerated the process.

“We have made cybersecurity a major strategic priority,” Caughman said. “And the University System of Georgia endorsed that priority and provided new funding that will aid in launching the Cyber Institute. GRU is making a commitment as well.”

The creation of the institute is also a step toward getting recognition as a Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense.

“I congratulate GRU on this proactive step to enhance educational opportunities for its students and contribute to the Augusta community’s growing role in our nation’s cyber defense,” said U.S. Congressman Rick Allen. “I have heard firsthand from GRU faculty about their vision and commitment to building an excellent program that equips its students to excel in this increasingly important field. I look forward to seeing the great things accomplished by the GRU Cyber Institute.”

U.S. Congressman Lynn Westmoreland also endorsed GRU’s efforts.

“Georgia’s support for the men and women protecting our country is well known and respected across the nation, and I am thrilled to see GRU’s new Cyber Institute will contribute to that excellence,” said Rep. Westmoreland, who is Chairman of the NSA and Cybersecurity Subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “Cybersecurity is a highly skilled and critical field in our nation’s defense strategy, and being prepared is imperative to keeping our homeland safe. I look forward to supporting GRU’s success in both student education on cyber defense and security, and their contributions to our national security.”

The Cyber Institute will provide the framework for all things cyber at the university, in cooperation with several of GRU’s colleges, which currently offer cybersecurity courses and degrees. They include cybersecurity programs through the Hull College of Business, a medical informatics program focused on protection of health information through the College of Allied Health Sciences, and courses on cyberterrorism through the Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

“We have the opportunity to collaborate across the university, to take advantage of the unique offerings of each of the colleges,” Sexton said. “That’s what the institute is in a unique position to do.”

To watch this story on WFXG Fox 54, click here.

PA student receives Beard Award

Jenny DicksonAUGUSTA, Ga.- Selfless, optimistic, and nurturing are a few of the sentiments used to describe Physician Assistant Program graduate Jenny Dickson, this year’s winner of the John F. Beard Award for Compassionate Care at Georgia Regents University.

The $25,000 award was presented to Dickson on May 7 during the GRU College of Allied Health Sciences Hooding and Honors Ceremony. The Jefferson County native says she was humbled to be honored by her peers and faculty.

“When I heard my name being called that evening, I was in complete disbelief and felt beyond blessed to be recognized for such a prestigious award,” said Dickson.

Her passion for excellence in health care made an impression on fellow classmate Courtney Brooks, whose nomination letter, states how Dickson’s work ethic throughout her clinical rotations exemplified what it meant to make patient care a top priority.

“She holds patients when they cry, takes the time to listen and accurately diagnose the patients’ illnesses, and maintains a humble and happy attitude with everyone she meets,” Brooks wrote. “Most recently, Jenny took on 24-hour shifts in a rural emergency room voluntarily and saw each patient with the same individual attention and high standard of care regardless of time of day or level of injury. She is truly deserving of recognition.”

Another nominator, Stevie Redmond, Assistant Professor in GRU’s Physician Assistant Department, wrote, “While on her Psychiatry rotation, a 19-year-old female was admitted with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Jenny worked with the patient on a daily basis and eventually got her to make a list of both short-term and long-term goals while keeping the mother involved.” Dickson was commended for contributing to this young patient’s emotional and physical health.
During her time at GRU, Dickson volunteered for the John Barrow Health Fair and worked with the Christ Church Health Clinic to provide screenings to uninsured patients in Augusta.

She attributes her work with the non-profit Hearts and Hands Clinic in Statesboro as her inspiration to pursue a career in the medical field.

“I will never forget working with the clinic and how I fell in love with helping people, even with simple things such as making sure they had their prescriptions,” said Dickson. “Those were indeed special moments.”

Dickson previously earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from Georgia Southern University, and this month completed her master’s degree to become a Physician Assistant from GRU. She holds certifications in Advance Cardiac Life Support and Basic Life Support and is a member of several professional organizations.
The $25,000 annual John F. Beard Award is endowed by William Porter “Billy” Payne and his wife, Martha, to a graduating GRU student who exemplifies caring and compassion in health care. Payne, Chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, established the Beard award in 1998 in memory of his father-in-law, who died of cancer in 1997. The award honors GRU President Emeritus Francis J. Tedesco and Beard’s physician, Dr. Mark F. Williams, a 1988 GRU Medical College of Georgia graduate who treated Beard during his hospitalization at Georgia Regents Medical Center.
Georgia Regents University is one of four public comprehensive research universities in the state with nearly 10,000 students enrolled in its nine colleges and schools, which include the Medical College of Georgia – the nation’s 13th-oldest medical school – the nationally-ranked Hull College of Business and Georgia’s only College of Dental Medicine. The clinical enterprise associated with the university includes the 478-bed Georgia Regents Medical Center and the 154-bed Children’s Hospital of Georgia. GRU is a unit of the University System of Georgia and an equal opportunity institution. http://www.gru.edu

New PhD in Applied Health Sciences good for GRU, good for health care

Georgia Regents University continues its long tradition of offering innovative, forward-thinking degrees with the launch of its new doctoral degree in applied health sciences.

The three-year, practice-oriented doctoral program is the first of its kind in the University System of Georgia, something the Board of Regents noted when they approved the program in March.

“This is a program that fills a major gap,” said Dr. Andrew Balas, Dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences. “It’s a PhD program that is targeted toward innovation that changes health care and the public’s health.”

Designed to equip health professionals with the skills to solve health care issues in numerous fields of allied health, graduates will be uniquely prepared for roles in the health care work force, which is made up of some 80 different professions. In fact, approximately 60 percent of all health care workers are allied health professionals.

According to Balas, the demand for health care workers is twice the growth of the national economy. By 2020, the U.S. will require 20 million health care professionals. The College of Allied Health Sciences has been developing programs to support this growth since the 1930s.

Departments within the College of Allied Health Sciences include Clinical and Environmental Health Sciences, Dental Hygiene, Health Management and Informatics, Medical Illustration, Medical Laboratory, Imaging and Radiologic Sciences, Occupational and Physical Therapy, and Physician Assistant. Graduates of these departments enjoy a nearly 100 percent employment rate.

While active development of the doctoral degree in applied health sciences started about two-and-a- half years ago, Balas said the program had been a dream of the college, its faculty, and his predecessors for a long time.

Though many students will come from the local population, Balas said he expects to draw from across the state and nation, eventually even including international enrollment. With a mix of distance technology and on-campus work, Balas believes the program’s flexibility will appeal to students from all locations, and he hopes its practical focus will attract results-driven practitioners.

“This is called applied health sciences, and that’s not an accidental term,” he said. “We have a number of PhD programs at GRU that look at basic science skills and look at the development of some of the scientific understanding of the mysteries of human health,” Balas said. “This particular program that we developed is really looking into science and research development from a very applied perspective, so we really expect that the results of our projects will be largely applicable to health care practitioners.”

All of which dovetails with the type of students Balas expects to join the program, which debuts in the fall.

“It’s actually targeted toward the working professional,” he said. “To a large extent, we would like to have practicing clinicians becoming very competent researchers, building their expertise to develop new knowledge for better health care practices.”

For more information, visit the College of Allied Health Sciences here.

Graduation celebrations and hooding ceremonies

AUGUSTA, Ga. – More than 1,000 students are expected to participate in Georgia Regents University’s commencement exercises on May 8, at 2 p.m. at the James Brown Arena.

This year’s commencement speaker will be Jane Chen, a TED Senior Fellow and CEO of Embrace, a social enterprise that developed an innovative baby incubator solution designed to address infant mortality in developing countries.

Each of GRU’s nine colleges will hold year-end ceremonies as follows:

  • College of Science and Mathematics Graduation Reception, 10 a.m., May 8, Science Hall Atrium, Summerville Campus; Psychology Hooding Ceremony, 6:30 p.m., May 7, The Pinnacle Club, 699 Broad Street
  • Medical College of Georgia Hooding Ceremony, 2 p.m., May 7, The Augusta Convention Center, 2 10th St.
  • College of Nursing Convocation , 3 p.m., May 7, GRU Christenberry Fieldhouse
  • College of Education, 4:30 p.m., May 7, Jaguar Student Activities Center Ballroom
  • College of Allied Health Sciences Hooding and Honors Ceremony; 6 p.m., May 7, Bell Auditorium, 712 Telfair St.
  • Hull College of Business Graduation Reception, 6 p.m., May 7, Allgood Hall North Stairwell, Summerville Campus
  • College of Graduate Studies Hooding Ceremony, 8 a.m., May 8, Warren Baptist Church, 3203 Washington Road
  • Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Graduation Celebration; 9 a.m., May 8, GRU Jaguar Student Activities Center Ballroom, Summerville Campus; ROTC Officer Commissioning Ceremony, 1 p.m., May 7, GRU Maxwell Theatre, Summerville Campus
  • College of Dental Medicine Hooding Ceremony, 10 a.m., May 8, First Baptist Church, 3500 Walton Way

GRU’s Student Government Association will also hold an Undergraduate Ceremony at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 7, in the GRU Summerville Quad on the Summerville Campus.

For more information on graduation activities, call GRU’s Division of Enrollment and Student Affairs at 706-721-1411, or visit gru.edu/students/graduation/


Georgia Regents University is one of four public comprehensive research universities in the state with nearly 10,000 students enrolled in its nine colleges and schools, which include the Medical College of Georgia – the nation’s 13th-oldest medical school – the nationally ranked Hull College of Business and Georgia’s only College of Dental Medicine. The clinical enterprise associated with the university includes the 478-bed Georgia Regents Medical Center and the 154-bed Children’s Hospital of Georgia. GRU is a unit of the University System of Georgia and an equal opportunity institution.  gru.edu


Shark Tank: Day of Reckoning

At the beginning of the semester, only two of Dr. Debra Beazley’s 40 physical therapy students had ever taken a business course. Last week, all of them presented comprehensive business plans to the class and to a panel of area businesspeople.

“I was so impressed with what they presented, but I was even more impressed with the fact that they were able to ask such sophisticated questions about the other presentations,” Beazley said. “That showed that they had incorporated the concepts in a multidimensional way.”

The day of presentations, which was set up very much like the TV show “Shark Tank,” had the six groups selling their concepts to the panel. Each member of the panel served as a mentor to one of the groups, the first time the management course had matched mentors to students in such a way.

According to Beazley, the class, a requirement for students working on their Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, is unique to physical therapy programs in Georgia.

“The only thing that comes close is at Emory, which does a combined DPT/MBA,” Beazley said. “They partner with the business school, and the students are able to get the combined degree in four years instead of five.”

Beazley, who has an MBA and a PhD in business on top of her physical therapy degree, feels this class, which educates students on the business aspects most health care professionals lack when they enter the workforce, could be successfully duplicated in other programs.

“I would love to do this for anybody who’s willing to make this a part of a curriculum or even a special project,” she said. “I have the health care experience and the health care management experience, so it’s easy for me to sit with students and actually take a business concept and relate it to what they would be doing in everyday life.”

And these business plans aren’t just class assignments – they’re the real thing.

A business plan from last year’s management class became a reality earlier in the year, when Doctor’s Hospital used it in developing its Pelvic Health Institute, and Beazley said one of this year’s presentations generated significant buzz among the panel.

“Some of the mentors actually approached that group and said, ‘If you want to do this, we will finance you,’” Beazley said. “So I had a catered lunch for the mentors and the students, where some of the mentors actually had meetings with the students and talked about their long-range plans.”

Jason Lott, owner of Evans Rehabilitation Services, mentored that particular group, Grovetown Physical Therapy and Fitness Club, and said he was impressed by their level of understanding.

“There are a lot of things you can’t think about or foresee without a little real-world experience, and they took those things to heart every time they were mentioned,” he said. “It’s been a fun process.”

It’s a process that might have made his professional life a little easier.

“I had no business background going in,” he said. “I was just strong in math and logic, and there’s not really anybody you can ask.”

After classes in the summer, the group of students will have a year of internships before graduating and heading out on their own, perhaps even resurrecting one of the business plans.