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As Michigan school librarians disappear, this program allows teachers to fill in

Amid a sharp decline in the number of Michigan school librarians, a new program was started this summer to use teachers to help fill those roles. The Experimental School Library Media Specialist program allows already certified teachers to be recognized by the state as school librarians after they’ve taken just five additional classes, or 15 credits, at Wayne State University. The number of full-time certified librarians in Michigan has dropped sharply in recent years. Only 8 percent of schools have a librarian today; the figure has declined roughly 73 percent since 2000. The number of people trained to be librarians has fallen sharply, too, so much so that librarians are on the state’s “critical shortage” list even as the number of available jobs shrinks. The program’s website says impending retirements among the remaining librarians will open up jobs to new librarians. The program was granted temporary permission from the Michigan Department of Education to allow teachers to add a new area of expertise in less time than usual. Teachers are typically required to take 20 credits in order to add a new area of expertise. This is not the state’s only effort to combat educator shortages by reducing credentialing requirements. With districts in some areas struggling to hire teachers, lawmakers allowed for new teachers to lead classrooms after taking 300 hours of online classes.
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A Wayne State University Theater Ensemble Performs Original Play in Scotland

Exploring topics such as race, gender, sexuality, and mental health, members of the Freedom Players — an ensemble formed out of Wayne State University’s Black Theater and Dance Program — went no holds barred this month when they performed their honest and original play, I Am, at the Scotland-based Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The trip marked the first time WSU students have attended the month-long, city-wide celebration, and their play was one of more than 50,000 performances showcased during the festival’s run. Following their experience across the Atlantic Ocean, Hour Detroit spoke with Billicia Hines, artistic director of the Black Theatre and Dance Collective at WSU, about the decision to attend this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, how it felt to bring their heartfelt work to an international audience, and the unforgettable impression this experience has had on the young Freedom Players.                                                    
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With new leadership in Oakland County, what’s next for regionalism?

In early August, Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson died, leaving a vacancy at a post he held for 26 years. The longtime Republican executive was known for, among other things, promoting Oakland County at all costs. He often said that if something was good for Detroit and other counties, but bad for Oakland County, he would oppose it. He also stymied efforts at regional transit and was criticized for fanning animosity between the suburbs and city with his incendiary language. Many are hoping that new leadership will increase regional cooperation, which is desperately needed. “We’ve got a labor market that is regional, but don’t have a transportation system that reflects that geography,” says Robin Boyle, professor emeritus at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at Wayne State University. “We don’t think about the metropolitan area when it comes to two of the most important elements that make up lives: our work and our ability to move around.” David Coulter was named the new Oakland County executive this week—it will be the first time in half a century that Democrats will lead the county. Since 2011, Coulter had been the mayor of progressive, LGBTQ-friendly Ferndale. During his tenure, he improved the city’s bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Rising housing prices and an eclectic mix of businesses have helped it become one of the trendiest cities in Oakland County. Boyle adds that whoever is in charge will ultimately serve their constituents first. Much like Patterson. “We have a culture in Southeast Michigan that doesn’t look beyond the immediate municipality that you live in,” he says. “That includes Detroit, that includes small communities everywhere from Grosse Pointe and Downriver to northern Oakland County. “This could be an opportunity to make a change, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.”
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How to make sure your water filter really removes lead

A problem with high levels of lead in Newark’s drinking water led the city last year to distribute water filters to residents. But that plan hit a snag this week when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alerted the city that drinking water in two of three homes it tested still had high levels of lead, despite the filters. The EPA advised Newark residents to stop drinking tap water and urged the city to supply bottled water instead (though that solution also ran into problems when the city learned some of the water had passed its expiration date). Filters certified to remove lead must undergo rigorous testing by NSF or other labs. The Water Quality Association, for instance, tests the filters with water contaminated at 150 parts per billion—10 times higher than the EPA’s action level of 15 ppb. Researchers in Flint even pushed filters to the extreme, testing with water contaminated to 1,000 ppb, and found they still removed all lead from the water. The filters distributed in Newark were activated carbon filters certified to remove lead. But not all filters can do that. “Activated carbon has a lot of surface area with nooks and crannies where chemicals can stick,” says Shawn McElmurry, a Wayne State University professor who did extensive field research during the Flint water crisis. “But it’s not infinite.” To add to the chaos, McElmurry says there could be other contaminants in the water competing for those attachment sites. And if some of those contaminants have more mass or energy, they could knock some lead loose—like throwing softballs at your Velcro wall of tennis balls. Faucet-mount filters, like those used in Flint and Newark, typically cost $20 to $40 and require several installation steps that can go awry. “These filters are not easy to get onto the faucets,” McElmurry says. “We found that a lot of people in Flint with arthritis or poor motor function in their hands couldn’t attach them.” 
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Scientists discover new state of matter

A team of physicists has uncovered a new state of matter—a breakthrough that offers promise for increasing storage capabilities in electronic devices and enhancing quantum computing. The discovery, reported in a paper, “Phase signature of topological transition in Josephson Junctions,” or arXiv, was conducted with Igor Zutic at the University of Buffalo and Alex Matos-Abiague at Wayne State University. The work centers on quantum computing—a method that can make calculations at significantly faster rates than can conventional computing. This is because conventional computers process digital bits in the form of 0s and 1s while quantum computers deploy quantum bits (qubits) to tabulate any value between 0 and 1, exponentially lifting the capacity and speed of data processing. Researchers analyzed a transition of quantum state from its conventional state to a new topological state, measuring the energy barrier between these states. They supplemented this by directly measuring signature characteristics of this transition in the order parameter that governs the new topological superconductivity phase. Here, they focused the inquiry on Majorana particles, which are their own antiparticles—substances with the same mass, but with the opposite physical charge. Scientists see value in Majorana particles because of their potential to store quantum information in a special computation space where quantum information is protected from the environment noise. However, there is no natural host material for these particles, also known as Majorana fermions. As a result, researchers have sought to engineer platforms—i.e., new forms of matter—on which these calculations could be conducted.
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Aretha Franklin’s cancer doctors recall her grace, grit

Regardless of her reputation as a performer, Aretha Franklin ‘s cancer doctors say she was no diva as a patient. As the anniversary of her death approaches, two of her doctors relate that the Queen of Soul handled the diagnosis and treatment with grace — and the grit to keep performing for years with a rare type of cancer. Franklin, who died in Detroit on Aug. 16, 2018, at 76, had pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer, which starts in the pancreas but is far different and much slower developing than the more common, aggressive type of pancreatic cancer known as adenocarcinoma. Franklin’s kind is exceedingly rare: Neuroendocrine cancers comprise about 7 percent of cancers originating in the pancreas, according to the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation. Dr. Philip Agop Philip, a professor at Karmanos and Wayne State University, recalled how she wanted to continue her life as normally — and positively — as possible. “She was full speed — she wasn’t even complaining,” said Philip, who first saw Franklin in early 2011 and was her doctor of record at the time of her death. “That was different than what I expected. ... She never showed signs that she was close to thinking that she may give up ... until the end, close to the end.” Philip saw a patient who didn’t demand star treatment, saying she never made him or his staff “feel that we need to treat her as a celebrity.”
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DTE Energy Foundation awards $100k to Wayne State’s Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies

The DTE Energy Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to the Wayne State University Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies to support its Summer Enrichment Program (SEP). Designed to improve retention and graduation rates, SEP is a college-readiness program that helps incoming first-generation and underrepresented college students acquire the key “hard” and “soft” skills needed to smoothly transition to rigorous university-level coursework. Structured as an intensive, eight-week immersion in mathematics, English composition, oral communications and cultural studies, the SEP courses and complementary learning exercises are widely regarded as pivotal to a successful academic experience. The grant, which will enable the center to continue to offer SEP over the next four years, greatly advances the university’s strategic plans to recruit, retain and graduate a diverse pool of students who will become leaders in their professions and in local communities. The program has a demonstrated record of laying a solid foundation for their competitive performance in a wide array of courses, especially those in the STEM fields. “We are grateful for the vote of confidence that the foundation has deposited on our organization’s ability to continue to assist students pursuing a cutting-edge academic degree at Wayne State University,” said Jorge L. Chinea, director of the center.
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Wayne State looks to ‘reboot’ urban pediatrics program

Wayne State University has created a new practice plan called Wayne Pediatrics, according to Dr. Herman Gray, chair of the new Wayne Pediatrics department. Gray says the department is taking advantage of this opportunity to reimagine how care is delivered to children and their families in an urban setting. As part of that effort, Wayne Pediatrics has created the Urban Children’s Health Collaborative, an initiative to connect urban kids with better health care. Gray also talked about the wider health care disparities that exist, both in Detroit and around the country. “Certainly, poverty and racism are pretty much universally acknowledged as the foundational components of societal disparities,” says Gray. “We believe that being minimized, being disrespected, being uncertain of your place in society induces toxic stress.”
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Wayne State’s urban innovation district near New Center takes shape

Ever since a working group convened to discuss the matter in 2014, Wayne State University has been working to create an “Innovation District” near New Center. Those plans finally seem to be coming together. Last year, the university purchased the NextEnergy Center, now called the Industry Innovation Center (I2C), on Burroughs Street across from TechTown Detroit. Those three partners have teamed up to create Detroit Urban Solutions, which is taking a multidisciplinary approach to address issues facing cities. One block away, Wayne State opened the Integrative Biosciences Center (IBio) in 2015, which similarly takes a multidisciplinary approach to health research. TechTown was founded by Wayne State in 2000, and though it has since become an independent nonprofit, still works in close partnership with the university’s Office of Economic Development. Wayne State has also begun to release details of its master plan, and Emily Thompson, place-based initiatives manager at WSU’s Office of Economic Development, says this redesign aligns with the aims of that plan. “One goal of the master plan was to create better north-south connectivity across campus,” she says. “With more activity, it’s more likely to draw the university up that way. So whatever we do with I2C on will improve walkability as a whole.”
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Michigan Mobility Institute begins crafting curriculum in partnership with Wayne State

Michigan Mobility Institute executive director Jessica Robinson says the process of creating a first-of-its-kind Master of Mobility degree is "well underway," thanks to the institute's new partnership with Wayne State University. The institute made headlines earlier this year when it announced its intention to create the high-level educational credential in mobility. Robinson says Wayne State's College of Engineering was an ideal inaugural educational partner to collaborate with in creating the coursework and formal structure for the degree. Wayne State's existing dual focus on both cutting-edge research work and connecting its grads to jobs in the field also is a plus. WSU professors are already working on classes that are applicable to next-generation mobility careers, which will form an important base upon which to build a regimen of highly specialized mobility coursework. Wayne State will provide the Michigan Mobility Institute's physical campus for the time being. Other space needs may arise with time, and if they do Robinson says the institute will work with WSU and other partners to create them.
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Can Mike Duggan demolish his way to a safer Detroit? Studies say maybe

Two studies — one from researchers at the University of Michigan and Harvard University and the other from Wayne State University — suggest the nearly 19,000 building demolitions in Detroit since 2014 have reduced nearby gun-related crimes. The studies, though, aren’t conclusive, and come as federal funding for the demos, which have cost some $250 million, is winding down. Duggan plans to ask voters in 2020 to approve a $200 million bond issue to continue the demolitions, saying he wants the city to be blight-free by 2024. The most recent study – the U-M/Harvard review – found that neighborhoods with a larger proportion of non-Hispanic white residents had more demolitions. And the Wayne State authors late last year noted the possibility of “diminishing returns.” While “concentrated demolitions” are linked with crime reduction, “we still need to answer whether razing Detroit is actually raising Detroit,” authors wrote. The studies follow similar research by Wayne State University last year.  For every three demolitions, violent and property crimes fell by about 1 percent, the study found. Because most census block groups in the study saw nearly 11 demolitions in the time period, the demolition efforts drove down crime overall about 3 percent, the study concluded. Like the U-M and Harvard researchers, Wayne researchers found no significant change in drug crimes, though it’s unclear why.
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Anti-smoking advocates fear new age-21 law won’t curb teen tobacco use

Legislators and public-health officials are celebrating a recent rise in Ohio’s smoking age as a triumph in the battle against teenage smoking. Anti-smoking advocates, on the other hand, worry that the new age limit will discourage cities and towns from adopting the strict regulatory approach that they argue is more effective in the fight against teen tobacco use. Advocates worry that police, with bigger problems to handle than smoking among youths, will leave age limits on tobacco purchases unenforced. Jeff Stephens, government relations director in Ohio for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, approved of the state raising its tobacco age, but he said the risk of a retailer losing its license is the best way to keep stores from selling to young people. There is research to support both approaches. Yale University health policy professor Abigail Friedman conducted research that found underage smokers often acquire tobacco and vaping products from adult friends. Other studies came to similar conclusions, said Wayne State University School of Medicine professor Daniel Ouellette, who has reviewed research on teen smoking. That suggests that raising the age limit is a good way to deter smoking by minors, he said.
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Wayne Pediatrics recruiting heats up, plans to occupy former Hospice of Michigan building

The future of newly formed Wayne Pediatrics and restructured University Physician Group, two affiliates of the Wayne State University School of Medicine, is becoming clearer with a planned occupancy in October of the former Hospice of Michigan building at 400 Mack Ave. in Detroit. In late June, UPG signed a two-year lease with an option to purchase the 55,000-square-foot, five-story building, across the street from the Detroit Medical Center campus. Wayne Pediatrics also has committed to sublease an unspecified amount of space for its new administrative and clinical offices. On Oct. 1, 75-80 UPG administrative staff will move into the practice's new headquarters and clinic, said UPG CEO Charles Shanley, M.D.
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Can experts determine who might be a mass killer? 3 questions answered

Wayne State University Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Arash Javanbakht answered some questions about mental illness, mass murder and whether it’s possible to prevent horrific shootings. Is a person who commits mass murder mentally ill? What is the difference between extremism and mental illness? And, are there ‘red flag’ behaviors that can indicate risk? According to Javanbakht, the good news is that, to prevent a violent person from access to firearms, we do not need an established diagnosis of a mental illness. The history of unreasonable violence itself is enough. These measures may not prevent some of the mass shootings, but they can help with a lot of murders and deaths by suicide.”
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Guns and mental illness: A psychiatrist explains the complexities

Arash Javanbakht, assistant professor of psychiatry, wrote a piece for The Conversation talking about the complexities of mental illness and guns. “President Donald Trump called for reform of mental health laws on the heels of two deadly shootings that claimed the lives of at least 31 people and left a grief-stricken country in disbelief. The president, saying that “hatred and mental illness pulls the trigger, not the gun,” also called for better identification of people with mental illness and, in some cases, “involuntary confinement” of them. These sentiments are similar to comments that Trump and a number of other politicians have made previously…In this debate, many questions arise that those discussing mental illness and gun violence may not even think about: What do we mean by mental illness? Which mental illness? What would be the policies to keep guns away from the potentially dangerous mentally ill? Most of these questions remain unanswered during these discussions.”
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Michigan doctors reach out to LGBTQ community to narrow health disparities

Roughly 1 in 6 LBGTQ people nationwide report being discriminated against when visiting a doctor or health clinic, while 1 in 5 say they’ve avoided health care because of discrimination fears, according to a 2017 survey of  lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer adults. That, in turn, deepens health disparities over a lifetime as patients skip screenings and get less help for chronic conditions and poor health habits, according to an overview of health research by the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. From public health clinics to large hospital systems, Michigan’s health care industry is reaching out to close such disparities, from updating forms to accommodate genders beyond “male and female” to adding LGBTQ-specific services. Among the most tangible efforts is the Corktown Health Center in Detroit, which opened in 2017 as Michigan’s first nonprofit health center with a focus on LGBTQ patients. It’s also one of only a few dozen such centers nationwide. As vice chair of education at Wayne State University’s Department of Internal Medicine, which helped establish Corktown Health Center,  Dr. Diane Levine is helping Wayne State’s medical school incorporate coursework, clinical teaching, and even residency slots at Corktown so that medical students today are more aware of the needs of LGBTQ patients tomorrow. The curriculum will mean that new medical students will go from “about two hours” of focus on LGBTQ health in the classroom, to about two dozen hours, she said. Among her presentations, she said, is the genderbread person, to prompt discussion on the interplay of the mind, heart, and reproductive organs. Understanding these basics, she said, is a first step in understanding a patient, she said. “And that,” she said, “is really Doctoring 101.”
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U.S. Government targets foreign researchers

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) have accused 180 foreign scientists of undisclosed financial conflicts of interest and other wrongdoing and have referred at least 18 of them to federal investigators for possible debarment, raising concerns about disruption of international medical research collaborations. Most cases involved Chinese researchers, but concerns also exist about scientists from other countries, such as Russia, Iran and Turkey. “I was surprised by the extent of the allegations”, said M. Roy Wilson (Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA), co-chair of a NIH working group on foreign influences on research integrity. “Scientific collaboration is a keystone of biomedical research and helps tremendously; I worry about an overreaction that could stifle continued progress.” “Universities will likely begin auditing or spot-checking scientists' disclosures, but it is important that be done across the board without targeting researchers from any particular country,” Wilson said.
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Wayne State University, Michigan Mobility Institute launch new mobility center

Wayne State University and the Michigan Mobility Institute announced their collaborative design of the Center for Advanced Mobility and curriculum on Monday. The expanding engineering curriculum will offer programs focusing on "autonomous driving, connectivity, smart infrastructure and electrification," according to a news release from the Center for Advanced Mobility at Wayne State University. The center will be part of the university's Industry Innovation Centers and is set to launch in the fall. "This will be a leading global center for the future of mobility," said Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the College of Engineering. "The Center for Advanced Mobility will be the epicenter for academic and startup activity in the mobility sector for students, researchers, and global corporate partners in Detroit." The college also plans to offer a Master of Science in Robotics in the fall of 2020.