Meet the winner of the 3rd Annual “America’s Got Regulatory Science Talent” competition


Joan Adamo, Angela Ryck, Martin Zand, and Scott Steele.

by Samreen Jatana
Special to CTSI Stories

Angela Ryck is the winner of the University of Rochester’s 3rd Annual America’s Got Regulatory Science Talent Student Competition Winner. She spoke with CTSI Stories about her project.Angela_Ryck_2015_v2-100x150

Could you tell me a little bit about your background and what got you interested in the competition?

I went to the University of Notre Dame for my undergraduate studies and I majored in Science Business, which was one of the pre-med tracks. In 2013, I went to Washington D.C. to do my Masters in Public Health at George Washington University (GW). Last July, I came to the University of Rochester to do another Masters degree in Biomedical Engineering through the CMTI program (Center for Medical Technology and Innovation). One of the requirements of the program is that we take the Pathways to Medical Innovation course, which is taught by Joan Adamo, Ph.D., who organizes this competition along with Scott Steele, Ph.D. It is through the Pathways class that I became familiar with the competition. We had to actively think about a Regulatory Science topic throughout the semester and come up with an innovative idea to address a particular problem.

What was the format of the competition? Could you discuss the structure of it?

They did not give us any strict guidelines to follow, which was great. But the basis was that the FDA set up eight priority areas in 2011 specifying the issues that they really want to address. For the competition we had to choose one priority area and devise a solution to address it. We were not required to write a proposal or perform any sort of study for this purpose; it was quite open-ended in terms of how we could choose to present our ideas. The competition was open to teams or individuals, and I chose to work independently. We had just five minutes to present our ideas to the three judges.

Which priority area did you focus on? Could you talk about the ideas you presented in your talk?

I addressed FDA’s 7th priority area, which is focused on enhancing medical counter measures, referred to as MCMs. Broadly speaking, these are the tools that we use to address situations including chemical threats or food that is contaminated or not safe. Within that area I focused on enhancing emergency communication, which I geared specifically towards food safety. To enhance emergency communications, the FDA wants to first assess past communications to see specifically where improvements are needed.  My idea was a sort of two-fold system that improves on the present while also assessing past communications; I called it the “ESCAPE” System. This is an acronym for “Emergency Situation Communication and Preparedness Evaluation”. To enhance current communications, it involves a universal card (the ESCAPE Card) that could be used at a wide range of stores or restaurants when a person buys food. That card will be linked to their contact information such as phone number or email. That way, in the event of a recall, those who purchased the recalled item can receive direct notification such as a text or phone call.
Stores like Wegmans and Costco are already doing exactly this, but it is not yet widespread or used by restaurants. Often people receive news of a recall via TV news or Internet, but this could make it more personalized and thus more effective. This will not only allow faster communication but will relieve people from anxiety if they were not involved in a certain recall case.  Aside from this, people will still need an incentive to participate.  Discounts and rewards systems tied to participating stores and restaurants could serve that purpose; and in return those stores and restaurants could retain some customer loyalty and perhaps some useful marketing information.

For the second aspect of assessing past communications, I designed a community-level evaluation to be used across the country. It would be a short series of questions answered online and part of the activation process when users first receive their ESCAPE card. The data collected could help the FDA to get a sense of how people in different geographical areas have received and/or understood past communications, and could also help to identify trends in health literacy. I was interested in this because of a previous experience of mine. During my masters in public health at GW, I interned for the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) in the State of Maine. I traveled throughout the State of Maine to conduct Rural Active Living Assessments, which look at individual communities and their capacity to promote physical activity through their facilities and programs. Getting down to the community level is important because it shows how the strengths and needs of communities can differ greatly. I applied this experience to the area of emergency communication.  Furthermore, Diana Monaco, a public affairs specialist at the FDA is a regional representative at the Buffalo office, and speaking with her was very helpful as well.

What next?

In the spring of 2016, I will travel to Maryland with Joan Adamo and Scott Steele and I will get an opportunity to present my project to the FDA. Before that I will continue to research and keep up with the news on this topic to ensure that all aspects of my proposal are in line with the goals of the FDA. Specifically, I’d like to further develop the evaluation portion of ESCAPE.

How does this competition fit into your future career goals? Do you see yourself working for the FDA at some point?

I definitely plan to work within the medical field. This competition and proposal are both in line with that. I really enjoyed this experience because it is so pertinent to what I learned during my public health degree and also very relevant to biomedical engineering. For example, you cannot design a medical device without familiarity with the FDA and the regulatory procedures. I learned a lot about the FDA during this project even though food safety is a little bit different than medical devices. Still, the ESCAPE Card concept could be applicable to medical devices as well. The idea can definitely be expanded to improve upon communication in a wide range of areas.

Scholar Spotlight: Wyatte Hall, Ph.D.

The Rochester Partnership for Deaf Postdoctoral Scholars is a joint program between the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and the Rochester Institute of Technology National Technical Institute of the Deaf. In the video below, Wyatte Hall, Ph.D., a program scholar, discusses his field of study and Rochester’s vibrant deaf community.

Read more about the CTSI’s partnership with the National Center for Deaf Health Research.

TBS Ph.D. candidate Molly Jaynes appears on WXXI’s Connections

Molly Jaynes, who is in her fourth year of the Translational Biomedical Science Ph.D. program, was recently on WXXI Connections with Evan Dawson, discussing her research and a possible cure for focal dystonia. Jaynes was joined by her mentor, Jonathan Mink, M.D., Ph.D., and were speaking in advance of Jaynes’s Oct. 29 lecture at the Rochester Museum and Science Center. Catch up on her interview here, or check out the video below to see more about what she has been working on!

CTSI Welcomes David Pinto

by Carrie Dykes
Special to the CTSI Stories BlogPinto

With his extensive education and varied work history, you could say David Pinto is a modern Renaissance man. Now, he has found a place that marries nicely his various strengths.

He has a degree in finance from the University of Buffalo and worked in banking and finance for several years before becoming a project manager in the construction industry. During his time working in construction he earned a music degree in performance and is an accomplished bass guitar recording artist. He then earned his degree in nursing from the University of Rochester, School of Nursing and worked at Strong Hospital in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care unit, after which he became a study coordinator in heart research. His experience in project management and as a study coordinator in cardiology made him an ideal candidate for his current position as a Clinical Research Informaticist.

“My ultimate goal and career plan coming out of nursing school was to merge my business experience with my nursing experience,” said Pinto. “My position in the CTSI really does that.”

Pinto manages all CTSI research requests for the i2b2 tool as well as data extraction requests from eRecord, Flowcast, HBOC, Softlab, Trendstar, and others.  He also spends part of his time providing data management support for the Rochester Center for Health Informatics.

“David is a great choice for this position because of his experience as a clinician (nurse), his experience as a research coordinator, his organizational skills, reputation for thoroughness, and his willingness to learn new things,” said Tom Fogg, CTSI Director of Operations.

When he is not working, Pinto is very busy spending time with his three daughters, a nine-year-old and twin seven-year-olds. His real passion is playing bass guitar in many genres but his recording artist efforts are in jazz music with the group Hard Logic. He can be seen performing around the city including at the Rochester International Jazz Festival.

Pinto’s office is located on the 4th floor of the Saunders Research Building; stop by and say hello.

Scholar Spotlight: Vankee Lin

CTSI KL2 scholar Vankee Lin, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor in the School of Nursing and Department of Psychiatry, shares her research on Alzheimer’s Disease and memory in aging adults.

The KL2 Mentored Career Development program provides 2 years of support for new investigators interested in a career in clinical or translational research. The program is designed to support the career development of those who wish to pursue research careers in multidisciplinary clinical and translational science.

Read more about the KL2 program, and check out a list of our current and past scholars.

CTSI and Center for Community Health welcome Kathleen Holt

Seeing something you love embraced by the masses can make for a wonderful feeling of validation. But the early adopters always retain bragging rights, and Kathleen Holt loved big data before it was cool.

Kathleen Holt, Ph.D.

Kathleen Holt, Ph.D.

“I have a Ph.D. in social psychology psychometrics, so I’ve been interested in big data for a long time,” said Holt, senior project research associate for the CTSI and Center for Community Health. “But recently, the applications of big data have become practical and have implications just about everywhere.”

Holt joined the CTSI’s informatics team in late 2014. She spent the previous 14 years working for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), a council that accredits all the medical residency programs in the United States. Among other things, she worked to  analyze residency programs.

“If you’re getting surgery training in Mississippi, is that the same training that you’d be getting if you were in New York City?” said Holt. “And how do you equate those things? How many surgeries are the residents doing, and how many do they need to do to be deemed competent?  To help address those questions, we’d work with the surgeons and experts on the review committees.”

She was brought to the university by the notion that she could work on projects that would more closely impact patients and in the Rochester area.

“I’m very passionate about the Rochester area and local health and all the forms it takes — mental health, economic health, physical health,” she said. “It seemed like UR, and the Center for Community Health and the CTSI are places where research comes together to improve people’s health.”

So far, Holt has been studying data generated by the blood pressure advocate program at the Center for Community Health. Much data has been collected for the program, and she’s helping to analyze it, and is hoping to apply a geographic information system to create a data-driven picture of the impact of the program. This means answering questions such as: Where are the patients from?  Are there things we can learn about our populations and our programs by examining where patients live?

At the CTSI, she’s worked with Tim Dye, the CTSI’s Director of Biomedical Informatics, and Dongmei Li, associate professor of Clinical and Translational Science, on a certificate program for biomedical informatics that will become a master’s degree program somewhere down the line.

“Kathleen is a critical connection between the informatics resources of the CTSI and the Center for Community Health,” said Dye. “Because she is embedded with both teams, she’s really able to match CCH needs with CTSI resources and informatics expertise. Since Kathleen has deep experience with technology and analysis, she’s also ideally suited to contribute to the design of effective community-based information systems.”

When she’s not at the CTSI, Holt and her husband (a family physician) spend some of their time performing in the Rochester Medical Orchestra, a group of musicians in the medical community who come together for several concerts a year. Holt (who plays the oboe) founded the group in 2007 with her husband (who plays the clarinet), and the orchestra’s concerts  each year are fundraisers for local medical charities.

Holt’s office will soon be located on the 4th floor of the Saunders Research Building; for now, she’s in the CTSI Director’s Office. Stop by and say hello.

CTSI Welcomes Margaret Demment to Informatics Team

Whether it’s coming from Upstate New York or Antarctica, Margaret Demment can help you make sense of that data.

“My training is in community nutrition, which is the public health side of nutrition, so I’ve studied health disparities and how to improve health in vulnerable populations. I’ve done qualitative work, quantitative work, large epidemiological studies, and smaller stuff,” said Demment. “So here, I’ll get to be a utility player and help with lots of different things.”

Margaret Demment, Ph.D.

Margaret Demment, Ph.D.

Previously a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University, Demment is one of the newest additions to the rapidly-growing CTSI Biomedical Informatics team, and she’s already begun work on a variety of projects.

Alongside Tim Dye, Ph.D., the director of the CTSI’s Biomedical Informatics team, she’s currently helping to create and study a massive data set called the Perinatal Data Network. The data, collected from more than 1 million women in Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and Buffalo over the past decade, gives a snapshot of the women’s health just after giving birth.

Demment and Dye would eventually like to make this data set accessible to researchers, but for now, Demment is studying the implications of an unwanted pregnancy on the health outcomes for the mother and child. Unwanted pregnancies are relatively rare, but the large dataset is allows her to perform the analysis previously impossible in other datasets.

A second project she’s involved in involves a qualitative analysis of a series of interviews conducted with researchers and workers in Antarctica.

“Many people go there because they think it’s going to be an adventure, but they end up working 6-day weeks, often long days, often in the dark depending on the time of year,” said Demment. “So people start seeking that adventure and often get injured, so we’re trying to pull out some themes that emerge from these interviews and provide information that would help with injury education and prevention.”

That Demment is capable of working on such wildly different projects is among the reasons that she joined the CTSI Biomedical Informatics team.

“Meg is perfectly suited to work in our research group — she’s got substantial qualitative and quantitative expertise, and importantly, has serious community engagement experience locally and internationally,” said Dye. “Her field is nutrition, which is inherently team-science oriented, so she’s used to working with a range of disciplines, which complements our team’s multidisciplinary orientation.”

Demment is currently working at the university part time. She’s also still finishing up some work at Cornell, while maintaining a side business that performs data analysis and program evaluation for community health organizations in Rochester.

Her office is within the CTSI Director’s Suite; stop by and say hello.