Produced by the Office of Communications // April 26, 2012
Psychiatry residents advance to Mind Games finals
The residents of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences have done it again—besting the best minds of the nation to vie for the title of champion of the Mind Games.
American Psychiatric Association (APA) Mind Games is one of the most exciting events at the APA Annual Meeting. After an intense competition between 90 teams, three finalist resident teams will be competing in a “Jeopardy” style quiz show in front of a live audience at the 2012 APA Annual Meeting May 8 in Philadelphia.
It is a great honor that the Medical School’s General Psychiatry Residency Team made up of Dr. Melissa Allen, Dr. Garima Arora, and Dr. Connie Zajicek will be competing for this coveted title. The Medical School team will compete against teams from the New York Presbyterian/Cornell Campus and the New York Presbyterian/Columbia/NY Psychiatric Institute.
The Medical School has made it to the finals twice before, winning the championship in 2008. Last year, the UT team placed fourth in the nation.
Grant to study therapy for autoimmune diseases
A researcher in the Department of Pediatrics is studying a novel cell therapy that could help avoid autoimmune problems after stem cell transplantation, as well as potentially treat other autoimmune diseases.
The preclinical study, funded with a $1.9 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, is being conducted in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The therapy centers on regulatory T cells, which are central to the control of autoimmunity in the body. Dr. Dat Tran, assistant professor in the Pediatric Research Center, said the therapy could help prevent graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), an autoimmune disorder that occurs in up to 80 percent of cancer patients receiving bone marrow stem cell transplants. It also could potentially treat other autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes.
“Leukemia and lymphoma are blood cell cancers, immune system cancers. You have to wipe out the whole immune system and then give the person a new system through a stem cell transplant,” said Tran, who holds a dual appointment in the Pediatrics Division of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology. “But the immune system is designed to detect foreign particles and attack them. Depending on how close the match is, you can have a reaction between the graft donor and the host patient that results in an autoimmunity problem.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, GVHD occurs in 30 to 40 percent of recipients using related donors and 60 to 80 percent in recipients using unrelated donors. Acute symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, jaundice, skin rash, vomiting, and weight loss. Chronic symptoms include dry eyes and mouth, hair loss, hepatitis, lung and digestive tract disorders, and skin thickening. Some cases can lead to death.
The most effective treatments are high-dose corticosteroids, which often have severe side effects. “That’s not good enough,” Tran said.
While working at the National Institutes of Health as an allergy and immunology fellow, Tran began to research ways to enhance the regulatory T cells in the body.
“Regulatory T cells are extremely important because if you don’t have them, your body will develop autoimmunity and attack itself,” he said. “We think perhaps the regulatory T cells don’t develop fast enough in stem cell transplants. So I thought, ‘Why don’t we put the regulatory T cells in the body before the transplant to enhance transplantation and avoid autoimmunity?’“
The challenge, he said, was finding a way to grow the T cells in large enough quantities and separate out the best ones to achieve a more potent population. He found a marker they could use to isolate the good regulatory T cells and published a proof-of-theory paper in the May 2009 issue of the American Hematology Society journal Blood.
“We’re now testing the cells in mice to see if they are stable and potent and that they will work,” he said. “In the next five years, in collaboration with MD Anderson, we hope we can prevent GVHD.”
Co-investigators for the study include Dr. Daniel Douek, chief, Human Immunology Section, NIH Vaccine Research Center; Dr. Amin Alousi, assistant professor of medicine, Department of Stem Cell Transplantation at MD Anderson; and Dr. Laurence Cooper, professor of pediatrics and section chief, Cell Therapy at MD Anderson.
— Deborah Mann Lake, Office of Advancement, Media Relations
Encouraging Summer Learning: Ideas for parents of young children
Ever heard of the “summer brain drain?” This is what educators call it when kids forget over the summer some of what they learned during the school year. Texas School Ready! teachers, part of the Department of Pediatrics’ Children’s Learning Institute, have worked so hard throughout the year to get kids ready for Kindergarten, and we want to help those little brains stay active during the summer months.
Some children may be in childcare or camp programs over the summer, while others will stay home with parents or other relatives. Wherever they are, there are many things parents can do to stimulate their children’s learning and continue to prepare them for Kindergarten.
Language & Literacy
- Read to your children every day. Reading together can become part of the nightly bedtime routine, something to do while riding the bus, waiting in a doctor’s office, or standing in line at the supermarket, as well as while cuddling on the couch. Colorín Colorado (bilingual)
- The CIRCLE document “Encouraging Literacy Using the Dollar Store” provides 28 different no-cost or low-cost games and activities parents can make and do with their kids to promote letter knowledge, phonological awareness, print knowledge, and engagement with writing.
- Take your children to the public library for story times, browsing, and borrowing books. Provide fliers from your neighborhood libraries so families know where they are located and what hours they are open.
- Remember that language and literacy games can happen anywhere! While riding in the car or sitting at a restaurant, play the “I Spy A-B-C” game. Take turns looking around at print in the environment (e.g., street signs, billboards, restaurant menus) and finding each letter of the alphabet one at a time. You also can play “Can you find A-B-C?” Ask the child to find something in the room that begins with a specific letter or sound.
- Provide materials for children to practice writing at home or while riding in the car—pencils and paper are easy to take along in a purse or backpack.
- A set of magnetic alphabet letters can be purchased at a dollar store or Target. These letters can stick to the refrigerator or a flat metal cookie sheet. Parents can encourage children to identify letters and try to make words, including their own names and names of family members and pets.
Math & Science
Many parents have heard about the importance of reading to children, but what about math? Research suggests that children are even more likely to lose math skills over the summer than reading skills. Yet there are many ways to incorporate math- and science-related skills into everyday activities throughout the summer:
- Parents can enlist their child’s help at the grocery store; children can count out cans of food or drinks as they go into the shopping cart and onto the checkout belt. They can help to weigh fruits and vegetables on the hanging scale and talk about which items are “heavy” and “light.” Children can help find their favorite cereal or snack food on the shelves by looking for words and symbols they recognize on the packages. Parents can point out words on aisle signs and talk about how much money each item costs. Comparing prices on different brands of the same item builds children’s awareness of money concepts and numerical values.
- Children can help to set the table for meals. Counting out enough plates, cups, napkins, and utensils for each person gives them practice in counting and sorting. When parents take time to explain and teach how to arrange these items on the table, children learn about spatial relationships and vocabulary such as “left,” “right,” “beside,” and “underneath.”
- Cooking projects provide rich opportunities for teaching math and science concepts. Parents can help children measure quantities, learn about fraction concepts such as “half” and “whole,” use their senses to touch, smell, and taste ingredients, and observe what happens when ingredients are mixed together and heated or frozen. Remind parents to talk to children about each step of the process in order to build vocabulary and comprehension.
- Water play is fun on hot days. Fill a sink or plastic basin with water and toss in some measuring cups, a plastic bowl, an empty ice cube tray, and some small waterproof toys. Children can learn a lot by experimenting with emptying and filling containers. Parents can ask their child to predict: How many spoonfuls or cupfuls will it take to fill the bowl? How does the number of cupfuls change when you use a smaller cup versus a larger cup to fill the bowl? Which items will sink or float in the water?
- Go on an insect hunt in the neighborhood. Take a walk with a piece of paper and pencil, and help children record all the insects they see. How many different kinds can they find? How many of each kind? What are they doing? How many legs do they have? How do they move? Parents can encourage their children draw the bugs they see. At the next trip to the library, check out a book on insects and try to identify the bugs found in the neighborhood.
- Remember board games like “Candy Land” and “Chutes and Ladders”? Or card games like “Memory” and “Go Fish”? Children learn social-emotional skills as well as math, memory, and matching skills from board games. They get to practice identifying numbers on a die or spinner, moving their piece the right number of spaces, following directions, waiting their turn, and handling winning and losing.
If families have access to the internet, there are many free interactive learning games for children that reinforce basic pre-reading and math skills in fun formats. Some websites also provide kid-friendly information about topics such as animals, the weather, and different countries. Check out the following websites:
— Cathy Guttentag, Ph.D., Children's Learning Institute
Bar association seeks partnership for IDEA program
The Houston Bar Association is looking for medical professionals to team up with to educate fifth graders about the medical and legal consequences of drug and alcohol use through the Interprofessional Drug Education Alliance (IDEA) Program.
Nineteen teams, consisting of an attorney and a medical professional, will use an interactive approach to provide information to 1,223 fifth graders during two morning sessions on Tuesday, May 8 to educate youth about the dangers of drugs and substance abuse. The Houston Bar Association and the Houston medical community established the IDEA Program in 1992 with a primary focus of preparing fifth graders for peer pressure they may face in middle school and beyond.
The teams encourage dialogue about the realities of using drugs and alcohol. Physicians will inform children on how drugs, alcohol, and tobacco damage their minds and growing bodies, while attorneys will discuss the perils of youth entering the criminal justice system. Some physician/attorney teams will stimulate discussion with visual aids, such as handcuffs, jail attire, photographs, and organs damaged by drugs and alcohol. Over the past 19 years, the IDEA Program has reached over 57,000 students in many local school districts in the Houston area.
All presentations are held at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Participating schools this year are Houston Academy, Webber Elementary, Woodland Acres Elementary, Garden Oaks Elementary, Roderick Paige Elementary, Tijerina Elementary, Woodson Leadership Academy, Epps Island Elementary, Haude Elementary, St. Vincent De Paul Catholic School, Beneke Elementary, Burchett Elementary, Edgewood Elementary, and Meadow Wood Elementary.
The IDEA program is still in need of medical professionals for the May 8 event across Houston. To volunteer, please contact Natasha Williams, community education assistant, 713.759.1133
Keeper of the force
Events to know
Food for Thought: A Cocktail Reception Celebrating Healthy Brains.
6:30–9 p.m., The Houston Museum of Natural Science, Grand Hall, 5555 Hermann Park
Get expert brain and spine health tips from Medical School neurologists and neurosurgeons affiliated with Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann and enjoy brain-healthy refreshments and a Central Market-sponsored cooking demonstration. To register, please call 713.222.CARE (2273).
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Alliance hosts the 10th Annual William P. Blocker, MD Distinguished Lectureship: presented by Dr. Daniel Dumitru, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.
8 a.m.–noon, Baylor College of Medicine, Kleberg Auditorium.
Concepts in Contemporary Cardiovascular Medicine Symposium.
Hosted by Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute and the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, highlights of this interactive, hands-on symposium include sessions on structural heart disease, TAVR, emerging interventional therapies for acute stroke, as well as developments in antiplatelet and antithrombotic therapy, a half-day STEMI symposium, and simulator training.
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Grand Rounds: Dr. Ashutosh Atri, resident, presents, “Disaster Psychiatry: The Pediatric Patient.”
Noon–1 p.m., HCPC Auditorium.
Family & Community Medicine Grand Rounds: Dr. Gazala Siddiqui, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, presents, “Recurrent UTI’s in Women.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.
Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology Seminar Series: Dr. Irina Seryshev (UT Health Science Center at San Antonio) presents, “Insights into Intracellular Ca2+ Release by Cryo-EM.”
4–5 p.m., MSB 2.135.
Special Dean’s Lecture: Dr. Herbert Fred, professor of internal medicine, presents, “Medical Education on the Brink: 62 Years of Front-line Observations and Opinions.”.
4 p.m., MSB 3.001.
All UTHealth faculty, students, and fellows are invited to attend. For more information, please email or contact 713.500.5605.
Women Leading the Way Spring Lecture: Dr. Mary Estes (Baylor College of Medicine) presents, “A Passion for Questions and Gastrointestinal Viral Pathogens.”.
4 p.m., MD Anderson, FCT/ Pickens 3rd Floor, Rooms 3–6.
Family & Community Medicine Grand Rounds: Dr. Lee Bar, assistant professor of family medicine, presents, “Basic of Electrolyte Management.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.
Medical School Research Committee Workshop: “Infectious Disease”, chaired by Dr. Steve Norris, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine.
9 a.m.–noon, MSB 2.135.
Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology Seminar Series: Dr. Paul Dawson, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, presents, “Molecular Mechanisms of Altered Bile Acid Homeostasis and Intestinal Function in Organic solute Transporter-Alpha Knockout Mice.”
1 p.m., MSB 2.135.
Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology Seminar Series: Dr. Karen Uray, assistant professor of pediatric surgery, presents, “The Role of PAK in Regulating MLC Phosphorylation in Intestinal Smooth Muscle.”
4–5 p.m., MSB 2.135.
Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology Seminar Series: Dr. Karen Guillemin (University of Oregon) presents, “Molecular dialogues with the microbiota: Insights from the zebrafish intestine.”
10:30 a.m., MSB 2.135.
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Grand Rounds: Dr. David Kupfer (University of Pittsburgh) presents The Cooper Lectureship, “On the Road to DSM-5.”
Noon–1 p.m., Cooley Conference Center, 7440 Cambridge.
Family & Community Medicine Grand Rounds: Dr. Larissa Meyer, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, presents, “Update on Cervical Cancer.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.
Clergy/Physician Colloquium: Dr. Kenneth Pargament (Bowling Green) presents, “Vital Signs: Spiritual Assessment and Spiritually Integrated Interventions.”
8 a.m.–3 p.m., Dun Rio Grande Conference Room, The Methodist Hospital.
Register by May 14.
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Grand Rounds: Dr. Sanjay Adhia, resident, presents, “Treatment Resistant Depression.”
Noon–1 p.m., HCPC Auditorium.
Family & Community Medicine Grand Rounds: Dr. Andres Pardo, PGY III, presents, “Case Presentation.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.
Memorial Day Holiday
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Grand Rounds: Dr. Huiping Xu, resident, presents, “A Complicated Case.”
Noon–1 p.m., HCPC Auditorium.
Family & Community Medicine Grand Rounds: Kate Wilson, genetic counselor, presents, “Genetic Counseling.”
1–2 p.m., MSB 2.135.
Dr. Yujie Lu, a Medical School postdoc whose mentor is Dr. Eva Sevick, has received a Gulf Coast Consortium/Keck Center training grant for November 2011 through October 2012 for “Fully Parallel Adaptive, Near-Infrared Fluorescence-Enhanced Optical Tomography with Radiative Transfer-Based Model for Lymph Node Staging in Breast Cancer Patients.”
Don Meade, M.B.A., 53, director of business development for UT Physicians, died Sunday, April 15, 2012, following a battle with cancer.
A graduate of Indiana University, he had served UT Physicians since 2001.
A Memorial Service will be held at 7 p.m., May 12, at Unity of Houston, 2929 Unity Drive. Donations can be made to Houston Hospice.
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