An Eye on Global Health: The Rochester Global Health Symposium


The CTSI recently hosted a full-day symposium to discuss current global health issues, such as the spread of the Zika virus, global cancer prevention and control, addressing global health disparities using new approaches and technologies, and more.

If you are interested in learning more about these topics, you can find a full video of the symposium here and the full agenda and additional information here.

The Rochester Global Health Symposium & UNYTE Scientific Session, which was organized by the Global Network Coordinating Center and UNYTE, featured presentations by leaders in global health research who are part of the Global and Territorial Health Research Network, or “Global Network”.

The Global Network, which was created with funding from the CDC Prevention Research Centers (PRC) Program, is an international collaborative web of academic and public health institutions and their community partners. The network strives to reduce disease burden in areas of the world that lack sufficient resources. A major strategy in achieving this is to understand lessons learned around the world in controlling and preventing diseases, and applying those solutions in under-served areas of the US and affiliated regions in a community responsive way.

The symposium included a full day of presentations with breakout discussion sessions as well as a student poster session and competition. Three students were recognized for the outstanding scientific merit and visual quality of their posters out of 27 poster presenters.

Scientific AwardClaire E. McCarthy: Dung Biomass Smoke Exposure Attenuates Immune Responses to Toll-like Receptor Ligands in Airway Epithelial Cells in Mice

Visual AwardKaren C. Chong: Relationship Between Age and ASQ-3 Scores Per Screening Interval in Peruvian Infants

Poster Presentation AwardZhishen Pan: Towards Understanding How News Coverage Affects Public Perception during Epidemic Outbreak


SCORE Half-day Seminar: Call for Posters!

Confident businesswoman giving a presentation at white boardResearch study coordinators and project nurses are invited to register and submit posters for the CTSI-sponsored 8th Annual Study Coordinators Organization for Research and Education (SCORE) Half-Day Seminar taking place at the URMC on Tuesday, June 7th.

The SCORE Half-Day Seminar is a morning of learning and professional development for research personnel. Researchers, study coordinators, and project nurses are encouraged to participate in discussions about autonomous motivation  and supporting psychological needs in the workplace,  learning problem-solving skills, such as root cause analysis, to address errors and reduce risk, understanding how to plan, implement, and maintain standard operating procedures and learning how “being mindful” promotes resilience and well-being.

Study team members interested in presenting a research-related poster must submit their entry by Friday, May 6 at 4pm. The poster session will kick off the seminar from 7:30 to 8:00am on Tuesday, June 7. Presenting authors must remain by their posters for the 30 minute poster session and posters will remain on display throughout the half-day seminar.

All attendees (nurses and non-nurses) can earn 3.83 continuing education contact hours from the University of Rochester Center for Nursing Professional Development, which is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.

The seminar is presented by SCORE and the University of Rochester School of Nursing, and sponsored by the Association of Clinical Research Professionals and CTSI.

For further information about poster submissions or to register for the seminar on-line by June 2, click here.

Please contact, with any questions.


Success Stories: Incubator Grant leads to R01 Investigating Psoriatic Arthritis Biomarker


Arthritis in multiple joints of the hands.

Past Incubator Program awardee, Christopher Ritchlin, M.D., M.P.H., Professor and Chief of Allergy/Immunology and Rheumatology in the Department of Medicine at URMC, has just won a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to explore a promising biomarker and possible drug target of psoriatic arthritis (PsA).

Approximately 650,000 people in the US are affected by PsA, which occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own skin and joint cells causing painful skin plaques and inflammation of joints and tendons. In addition, nearly half of all PsA patients experience erosion of the bone in their affected joints, which is caused by overabundance of bone-chewing cells, called osteoclasts.


Christopher Ritchlin, M.D., M.P.H.

In previous studies funded by the CTSI Incubator Program Award, Ritchlin and his collaborators began to shed light on how and why osteoclasts run amok in PsA.

They zeroed in on a protein called DC-STAMP, which is expressed at high levels in cells that fuse together to form osteoclasts. When they inhibited DC-STAMP with an antibody, osteoclasts could no longer form. They also found that certain PsA drugs caused a drop in DC-STAMP when patients experienced symptom relief.

In their new grant, Ritchlin and his collaborators plan to explore how DC-STAMP fosters formation of osteoclasts using an innovative technique called optogenetics to activate DC-STAMP with light and observe what happens downstream. They will also explore whether inhibiting DC-STAMP can reduce inflammation of joints and bone damage in PsA and if it can be used to predict which PsA patients will respond to current therapies.

Initial results from the grant have highlighted the necessity of thorough investigations of disease mechanisms. While Ritchlin and his collaborators originally showed that DC-STAMP fosters early steps of osteoclast formation leading to bone erosion, new data suggests it may actually inhibit at later stages.

Ritchlin credits the Incubator Program for setting this work in motion by “bringing people together who normally don’t work together, in a unique environment to explore questions of importance to cell biology and medicine.”

Read more about Ritchlin’s Incubator project and other current and past projects that have received the award.

Maintaining Leadership in LGBT Health Care Equality through Research

HEI 2016_bug final-01As you may have  read, UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial and F.F. Thompson Hospitals were recently recognized as “Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation. Both hospitals earned top marks by demonstrating a strong commitment to providing equitable, inclusive care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) patients and their families.

John P Cullen, Ph.D., director of Diversity and Inclusion for URMC’s Clinical & Translational Science Institute and coordinator of outreach for the Susan B. Anthony Center, says that within the Rochester region, nearly 7% of people self-identify as lesbian, gay or bi-sexual, which is about twice the national average of other cities.

“As the largest medical center in the area, we have a responsibility to stay ahead of the curve in education, building awareness, and creating new ways to serve this population,” says Cullen. “It is a source of pride that there is greater understanding across the organization, and that the unique needs of the LGBT population are more front-of-mind and integral to everyday conversations.”

7005The accreditation was granted based on four core criteria that make up the Health Care Equality Index: strength of non-discrimination policies regarding LGBT patients and employees, providing equal visitation rights to LGBT patients and their visitors, and appropriately training staff members in LGBT patient-centered care.

However, the HRC has reorganized and augmented these four core criteria for next year’s assessment. One core will now focus on LGBT patient and community engagement with particular emphasis on conducting LGBT health research as well as HIV research.

These new standards highlight the importance of conducting research that addresses LGBT issues and including LGBT individuals in research, which is one of the many underrepresented populations that Cullen is beginning to address.

“The CTSI is committed to diversity and inclusion in community engagement and research participant recruitment,” says Cullen. “The integration of underrepresented populations into research studies supports the CTSI mission to improve public health.”

An historic 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) acknowledged that LGBT people have unique health experiences and needs, and that as a nation we lack a good understanding of what these experiences and needs are. The report also recommended that researchers engage LGBT people in health studies and collect data on these populations to identify and better understand health conditions that affect them.

Several URMC researchers are doing just that. Vincent Silenzio, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Psychiatry and Megan Lytle-Flint, Ph.D., senior instructor of Psychiatry, are using social media to better understand the factors that put LGBT populations at risk of intimate partner violence and suicide and to prevent these events. Charles Kamen, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Surgery, researches health disparities in cancer-related health outcomes and psychological stress among LGBT populations.

URMC is also home to the Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), whose research address prevention, detection, and treatment of HIV/AIDS via development of vaccines, fostering outreach to at-risk populations that include LGBT individuals, and creating drugs to prevent progressive neurological issues associated with the virus. In fact, the Rochester Victory Alliance, a CFAR collaborator also housed at URMC, just began enrolling participants in a promising new Antibody Mediated Prevention (AMP) vaccine trial, which is the first to test whether an antibody could prevent HIV infection.

With a continued emphasis on research that addresses health disparities affecting underrepresented populations, Cullen believes we will “be able to maintain our leadership status in LGBT Healthcare Equality in the coming year.”

For more information about the Healthcare Equality Index 2016, or to download a free copy of the report, visit

For more information on the changing Healthcare Equality Index standards, click here.


RocHackHealth: A Path Toward New Solutions to Health Care Issues

RocHackHealth, a health care data hackathon hosted by the University of Rochester CTSI, was held this past weekend, April 8th –  10th, and was a great success. Teams of “hactivists” competed to come up with innovative big data solutions to three issues currently facing the US health care system.

The A Team, which included Alykhan Alani, Adora D’Souza, Arnab Sarkar,  Anas Abidin,  Sushant K,  won the first challenge using Medicare data to predict and prevent hospital readmissions.

The second challenge,  to examine patterns of controlled substance prescription in the US and identify potential over-prescribers was won by Team AHA members, Anthony Corbett, Hillary Lincourt, Andy Straw. In fact, Team AHA managed to identify several medical providers who are currently being investigated, or are serving sentences, for over prescribing narcotics.

Finally, Team Datalization members Giulia Paris, Hunter Johnston, Thanatcha Khunket (Kwan), Zino HuThe won the third challenge using Medicare data to identify social networks of health care providers in New York State.

For more images and information on the winners, click here.

Can Big Data Transform Health Care?


Last night, Martin Zand, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Rochester Center for Health Informatics and co-director of the CTSI discussed the future of big data in health care at the Simon Business School New York City Seminar Series.

Big data, defined as too large or complex to be captured, analyzed, or stored by conventional data processing methods, has captured the world’s attention in recent years. The inception of many new and inexpensive ways to collect large amounts of data (think Fitbit® and genome sequencing), has unlocked new and boundless potential to inform practices in business, government, health care, and beyond.

MartinZandNEWWhen it comes to health care and medical research, data abounds. Data is collected in real time by medical devices, such as EEG, and new technological devices, such as consumer fitness monitors or wearable health monitors. Millions of clinical images, laboratory results, and electronic medical records are produced every day. Massive amounts of de-identified patient data are also available from national registries and Medicare. The human genome is itself a treasure trove of information and the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort aims to collect and analyze one million genome sequences. All of these examples show that the US has numerous resources and a preponderance of big data that could be used to improve health care in the US … and it sure could use some improvement.

It’s no secret that the US overpays and under performs in the health care sector compared to other nations. We pump much more money – most of which comes from private sources – into health care than any other nation in the world and yet we have shorter life spans and higher infant mortality than countries who spend less on health care. According to The Commonwealth Fund Executive Rankings from 2014, although the US health care system does well in terms of safety and overall efficacy of medical care, it ranks poorly overall and in terms of health care efficiency, equity, and in the health of our daily lives.

However, the boundless potential offered by big health care data will remain untapped if data analysis methods fail to keep pace with data collection. In his talk, Zand suggested that we need to remove obstacles of data sharing and use, improve data visualization and train researchers and health care professionals on how to collect and handle data. Then we can use this data to figure out who is doing things well – in terms of health care data analysis and health care outcomes – and emulate them. Using big data, we could predict when and where adverse events might occur, and intervene before they happen. Similarly, we could predict risk of disease in patients from their genetic data and implement preventative medicine. Data science can also help us figure out why quality and cost of health care varies across the nation and how to standardize it, how to get health care to remote areas efficiently, and how to leverage networking between healthcare providers.

There are many issues in the US health care system that could be addressed using big data. Zand urges researchers to clearly identify issues needing intervention, try many different methods of analyzing the data, ensure the data is accurate and reliable, and to share their results.  That is one promising path to transforming US health care in the new era of big data.

UR Connected: Linking Researchers and Research Coordinators at UR


Are you a research coordinator in need of a job? Or a researcher looking for a coordinator?

UR Connected is like for research coordinators.  Like Monster, UR Connected is a web application that allows job seekers and employers to find one other – only in this case the job seekers are all research coordinators and the employers are research investigators at the University of Rochester.

Within UR Connected, research coordinators can post their qualifications, advertise availability for new or additional projects, browse job titles and HRMS IDs for posted jobs, or browse opportunities to contribute to in their spare time. On the other hand, research investigators or hiring managers can search for coordinators based on their qualifications and availability, post HRMS jobs, and advertise opportunities that are more limited than a posted position in HRMS.

Noreen Connolly, M.S., J.D., clinical research coordinator for the Strong Epilepsy Center and Department of Anesthesiology and advocate for UR Connected, has used the system from both perspectives: job seeker and employer.

As a self-proclaimed life-long learner Connolly loves the opportunity UR Connected provides for research coordinators to “step to the side and learn something different, learn a new field, and to continue to grow” by picking up jobs outside their area of expertise.

Like Connolly, coordinators can also fill in the lulls in their full-time work with part-time or temporary jobs on UR Connected. These jobs offer an opportunity for research coordinators to acquire additional working hours and gain a little expertise in an area outside their regular work without having to completely change jobs. This application also makes it easier for out-of-work research coordinators to find full-time positions of interest to them. This helps the university retain a very good, experienced pool of coordinators and reduces the need to constantly train new people.

Connolly says she found the application to be very easy to get into and easy to use. Her advice: “Don’t hesitate to use UR Connected. It’s very simple and it’s worth the few minutes of your time and effort.”

She also recommends periodically updating your profile. If you are a research coordinator or investigator who has a profile or posting in UR Connected, take a moment to ensure all of your information is current and correct. It could be the difference between finding that golden opportunity or missing it.

If you are a research coordinator or investigator interested in more information visit UR Connected, or send your questions to