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Wayne State professor who watched the Berlin Wall fall knew he was 'witnessing history'

Andrew Port didn’t anticipate a seat he took on a train while studying abroad in Europe in 1987 would change his life forever. But that train ride ended up being Port's ticket to witnessing history — the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. Port — then a junior in college and now a Wayne State University professor — sparked a conversation with a young German man sitting in the seat next to him. That man took a liking to Port, inviting him to a New Year's Eve party in West Berlin. Port attended the party, where he met a Berliner with whom he fell in love. After finishing his study abroad and graduating from Yale in the spring of 1989, he moved to West Berlin in October 1989 to be with his girlfriend. He couldn't have foreseen that he would be involved in one of the most consequential moments in modern history the following month. As an American living in Berlin for only about a month, the scene was especially surreal, Port said. Port went on to study history. He conducted research from Germany as a Harvard graduate student from 1994 to 1996. He has published several books on post-war Germany, some of which garnered significant media attention in Germany, and now teaches German history courses at Wayne State. 

Mom’s immune system and microbiome may help predict premature birth

Roughly 10 percent of children worldwide — an estimated 15 million babies — are born prematurely, or before 37 weeks gestation, each year. In developed countries, surviving an early birth has become more likely, thanks to the availability of intensive medical care. More than 98 percent of U.S. preemies survive infancy, according to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2016, though as many as 44 percent of the youngest preemies don’t make it. Survival is least likely in nations with the fewest resources. Worldwide, complications associated with preterm birth are the leading cause of death in children younger than 5 years old. Some of the signs of inflammation linked to preterm birth differ from those found during full-term birth, says Nardhy Gomez-Lopez, a reproductive immunologist at Wayne State University. For example, in 2017, she and colleagues reported in the American Journal of Reproductive Immunology that some proteins involved in inflammation, called cytokines, were present at higher than normal levels in amniotic fluid from a subset of women who delivered preterm. The earlier the women delivered their babies, the higher the cytokine levels. Infections, which are present in at least a quarter of preterm births, could be the cause, but inflammation and cytokine levels were also elevated when no infection was found. Part of the problem with developing a predictive test is that preterm labor isn’t just one condition. Thirty years ago, preterm labor was viewed simply as regular labor that happened early, says perinatologist Roberto Romero at Wayne State, who directs the perinatology research branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Although scientists now recognize that the biology of preterm labor is distinct, they still have to grapple with the reality that it varies depending on the underlying cause. Wayne State and NICHD recently released gene activity data from the whole blood of 150 Detroit women, 71 of whom delivered preterm, and encouraged researchers to use the data to find predictors of preterm labor, as part of a crowdsourcing collaboration called the DREAM challenge. The challenge is expected to be completed in January 2020. “We are at the beginning of an exciting period,” says Romero at Wayne State. The field is now equipped to start studying preterm birth as a collection of several different syndromes and seek out treatments to address each one, he says.

Why are uterine cancer rates rising so drastically in black women?

According to a December 2018 report from the CDC, the number of new uterine cancer diagnoses increased an average of 0.7 percent per year between 1999 and 2015, resulting in an overall 12 percent rise. Rates of endometrial cancer, specifically, jumped 4.5 percent per year on average. The uterine cancer mortality rate increased 1.1 percent per year on average between 1999 and 2016, amounting to a 21 percent leap overall. What’s more, the burden of uterine cancer is greatest for black women, and the disparity is increasing with time. While that same CDC report found that non-Hispanic white and black women had similar incidences of uterine cancer (about 27 cases out of 100,000 people), black women were more likely to be diagnosed with uterine sarcoma, the most aggressive form of uterine cancer, than women of other races, and also more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage than women of other races. Teasing apart the potential reasons behind this disparity is a complex task. The puzzle pieces start to come together when you look at some of the major risk factors for developing uterine cancer. Let’s start with endometrial cancer risk factors. “We do know that obesity is one risk factor,” Michele L. Cote, Ph.D., a professor of Oncology at Wayne State University and associate center director of Cancer Research Career Enhancement, tells SELF. This is because it’s a health condition that can increase the amount of estrogen in your body. Another endometrial cancer risk factor revolves around children. “The more children you have, the lower your risk,” Cote says. Pregnancy increases your output of progesterone, so you might benefit from its protective effects against this cancer. But people are generally having fewer kids these days, Cote explains, including black women. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of research data yet on why black women are more likely to have a more aggressive form of uterine cancer,” Cote says.
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Detroiters just got free college thanks to Wayne State

Access to higher education is one of the key drivers of economic mobility, particularly in a city like Detroit where poverty rates are “nearly three times higher than the national average” at close to 35%. While Detroit has a very high high school graduation rate — over 88% — this falls off substantially when it comes to higher education. Only 28% make it through a 4-year degree, and 11%  through a graduate or professional degree program. Wayne State University, an institution that serves close to 18,000 undergraduate students each year, is looking to fix this — having taken the highly unusual step for a public institution of making tuition free for any high school graduate with a Detroit address who receives admission, starting in 2020. Keith Whitfield, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs talked about this historic announcement and its economic impacts. 
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Medical students take to the streets to give free care to Detroit's homeless

Armed with care packages, clothes and clinical supplies, medical students in Detroit are learning outside the classroom. They are putting their knowledge and boots to the pavement, providing free health care to the city's homeless. Each week, students under the supervision of a registered physician or nurse practitioner get on their bikes and look for those in need. Programs such as Michigan State University's Detroit Street Care, Wayne State University's Street Medicine Detroit and the University of Michigan's Wolverine Street Medicine work together to treat as many of the city's homeless as possible. Jedidiah Bell, a fourth-year med student at Wayne State University and president of Street Medicine Detroit, says seeing issues from lack of health care access in his home country of Zimbabwe made him want to participate. "When I moved to the states for university and medical school, I saw the similar things [lack of access] with the homeless population," said Bell. "When I saw street medicine, I appreciated the model of how can we take medical care to the street and build up trust to bridge the gap between the homeless and the medical world." While the programs provide a vital service to the community, Bell says the real-world experience teaches students things the classroom or clinic can't. "It teaches medical students to hone-in on, not just medical conditions of patients, but to be able to sit down and form relationships and discuss other things that might be contributing to [patients'] health but might not come up during a traditional medical encounter." Bell says there's a widespread belief that the "students take away more from people on the streets than they take away from us." Anneliese Petersen, a second-year medical student at Wayne State University and volunteer with Street Medicine Detroit, says the experience also shows upcoming medical professionals another side of health -- the social determinants. "Things that are not strictly medical-based but have a strong impact on health and well-being. Income, access to health care, access to medication, being able to eat well, sleep well, to be able to relax and not be under chronic stress."
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“Joker”: A powerful psychological drama

Arash Javanbakht, M.D., director of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic (STARC) at Wayne State University, wrote a piece for Psychology Today about the film “Joker.” “I am a psychiatrist expert in trauma in adults and children, and a movie lover. When friends tried to convince me to watch "Joker" with them, I was hesitant. I was not interested in an action movie solely focused on the bad guy, especially given I liked Batman. However, a few minutes into the movie I realized what I had got myself into. "Joker" is not an action movie, it is a sad psychological drama, depicting the suffering of a man who was wronged, and got it wrong.”

Bringing the student startup dream to life at Wayne State

Armed with care packages, clothes and clinical supplies, medical students in Detroit are learning outside the classroom. They are putting their knowledge and boots to the pavement, providing free health care to the city's homeless. Each week, students under the supervision of a registered physician or nurse practitioner get on their bikes and look for those in need. Programs such as Michigan State University's Detroit Street Care, Wayne State University's Street Medicine Detroit and the University of Michigan's Wolverine Street Medicine work together to treat as many of the city's homeless as possible. Jedidiah Bell, a fourth-year med student at Wayne State University and president of Street Medicine Detroit, says seeing issues from lack of health care access in his home country of Zimbabwe made him want to participate. "When I moved to the states for university and medical school, I saw the similar things [lack of access] with the homeless population," said Bell. "When I saw street medicine, I appreciated the model of how can we take medical care to the street and build up trust to bridge the gap between the homeless and the medical world." While the programs provide a vital service to the community, Bell says the real-world experience teaches students things the classroom or clinic can't. "It teaches medical students to hone-in on, not just medical conditions of patients, but to be able to sit down and form relationships and discuss other things that might be contributing to [patients'] health but might not come up during a traditional medical encounter." Bell says there's a widespread belief that the "students take away more from people on the streets than they take away from us." Anneliese Petersen, a second-year medical student at Wayne State University and volunteer with Street Medicine Detroit, says the experience also shows upcoming medical professionals another side of health -- the social determinants. "Things that are not strictly medical-based but have a strong impact on health and well-being. Income, access to health care, access to medication, being able to eat well, sleep well, to be able to relax and not be under chronic stress."
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Russia Steps Into Syria As United States Withdraws

News of the United States pulling out of Syria has triggered upheaval and turmoil in the region. The Trump Administration’s change of course in Syria has complicated the already complex power structure in the Middle East. Wayne State University history professor Aaron Retish joined Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today to help unpack the complex web of interests and influence in the region. On the administration’s newfound adoption of non-intervention policy, Retish says, “There are going to be ramifications for that, one of them is going to be instability and the other one is going to be new power asserting themselves.” Those power players he is speaking of include Russia, Turkey and the Assad-led Syrian government, all of which have unique motivations. Retish asserts that we have to rethink the region if we are not going to commit to a military presence. This new American foreign policy approach in the area might mean “a totally refigured Middle East.”
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Jacques: Translate 'free college' into more graduates

Wayne State University’s recent announcement that it will offer free tuition to Detroit freshmen is no doubt welcome news to students and families throughout the city. Yet simply growing enrollment does not necessarily translate to more students with degrees. Cost is certainly a barrier for many low-income students. But it’s not the only one. Many Motor City students also struggle more than their counterparts around Michigan as they are more likely to be first generation college students. And many are coming from Detroit schools that haven’t adequately prepared them for rigorous coursework. Administrators at Wayne State are aware of these challenges, and are putting safeguards in place to ensure more students who enroll will be successful in their college experience. Starting in fall 2020, incoming freshmen will be able to attend fall and winter semesters at the university without the weight of tuition and fees. Students don’t have to meet any special requirements — just meet basic admission benchmarks. The Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge is expected to attract an additional 100-125 students a year, says Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management at Wayne State. The cost will be covered through a $90 million campaign fund for endowed scholarships, and she says tuition will not be raised for other students. “We want students to understand that college is possible,” Medley says. Wayne State has long struggled with low graduation rates, especially for its minority students. But a concerted effort by the university to target student challenges is helping turn those numbers around. It is now recognized as one of the fastest improving large institutions in the country for its boosted graduation numbers. Medley points to a focus on academic advising and helping students meet their basic needs, including food and housing. Monica Brockmeyer, WSU’s senior associate provost for student success, says the university has increased its six-year graduation rate to 48% in 2019 from just 26% in 2011. Black and Hispanic students continue to struggle, but are also seeing marked progress: 24% of black students now graduate, up from 8% in 2011; for Hispanic students, the rate is 39%, up from 17%. Because of its progress, WSU in 2018 received the Degree Completion Award by the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities.
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Wayne State Tuition Pledge Aims to ‘Meet the 360 Degree Needs’ of Detroit Students

Wayne State University made a big splash this week, announcing that it will give free tuition to students who live in Detroit starting with students who graduate from high school next year. The University is calling it the Heart of Detroit Promise. But what’s the likely impact of the program? Wayne State University Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Keith Whitfield talked with Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson about the announcement.
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Should public servants refuse to serve under President Trump?

Sylvia Taschka teaches modern German and world history at Wayne State University and is the author of a book about Hans Heinrich Dieckhoff, the last German ambassador to the United States before the Second World War. Taschka wrote a historical perspective piece focusing on the question: Should diplomats resign or decline to serve if they have deep moral misgivings about their government’s policy, or should they remain in office to try to prevent worse from happening?
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To re-engage drop outs, Wayne State program offers $1,500 in debt forgiveness

One of the big problems facing higher education is people who leave college before they get a degree and still owe the school money. Wayne State University decided to tackle that problem by giving former students a chance to come back and finish a degree, while forgiving some or all of their previous debt. Dawn Medley is Wayne State’s associate vice president for enrollment management, and Shawnte Cain is a student who took advantage of the "Warrior Way Back" program. They broke down how leaving college with an outstanding balance can affect a person’s future, and how the university will determine whether the program is successful and sustainable.
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Wayne State announces free tuition for Detroit students, residents

Michigan Gov. Whitmer and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan joined Wayne State University officials to announce a free tuition program for students at Detroit high schools. The program is being called the "Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge." The free tuition is for Detroit students who live in the city and attend public schools, charter schools or private schools. "This is a tremendous day for Wayne State and for Detroit students," said WSU President M. Roy Wilson. "This initiative aligns perfectly with many of our institutional values. Opportunity, accessibility and affordability are all pillars of the high quality education we provide, and the Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge delivers on all those values. With the resources and opportunities on campus and the exciting resurgence in Detroit, it's never been a better time to be a Warrior."
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Wayne State giving free college tuition to all Detroit high school grads, residents

Michigan Gov. Whitmer and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan joined Wayne State University officials to announce a free tuition program for students at Detroit high schools. The program is being called the "Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge." The free tuition is for Detroit students who live in the city and attend public schools, charter schools or private schools. "This is a tremendous day for Wayne State and for Detroit students," said WSU President M. Roy Wilson. "This initiative aligns perfectly with many of our institutional values. Opportunity, accessibility and affordability are all pillars of the high quality education we provide, and the Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge delivers on all those values. With the resources and opportunities on campus and the exciting resurgence in Detroit, it's never been a better time to be a Warrior."
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Wayne State's Chemistry Club builds 'world's largest periodic table'

To mark the International Year of the Periodic Table, Wayne State University’s Department of Chemistry created what is believed to be the largest periodic table in history — although no official record actually exists. Wayne State’s Chemistry Club, with help from clubs at University of Michigan Dearborn, U-M Flint, Detroit Mercy and Lawrence Tech, built a table that measured over 190,000 square feet, or approximately three football fields. “We went to a regional meeting and someone said, ‘Let’s make the biggest one ever,' ” said Sue White, a chemistry club co-adviser with Charlie Fehl. “It was an insane idea, but all we got was good advice on the best way to do it. Students and the department were very enthusiastic. People went out of their way to help us do the craziest thing ever.” Besides the 30-by-40-foot blue tarps used for each element, it took 95 gallons of paint and over 250 volunteers. Wednesday’s winds caused some concern, but 7,000 garden stakes kept everything in place.
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Wayne State to give free tuition to city of Detroit high school graduates

Wayne State University will give free tuition to all city of Detroit students who graduate from high school, starting with this year's graduating class. The free tuition is good for those attending traditional public schools, charter schools or private schools and making any amount of money. The only restriction: The student must live in the city of Detroit. The scholarship, called the Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge, was announced Wednesday morning by Wayne State President Roy Wilson at an event attended by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. "This initiative aligns perfectly with many of our institutional values," Wilson said in a news release. "Opportunity, accessibility and affordability are all pillars of the high quality education we provide, and the Heart of Detroit scholarship delivers on all those values." Dawn Medley, Wayne State’s associate vice president for enrollment management, said in an exclusive interview with the Free Press: “We didn't want to have a lot of reasons why people wouldn't qualify. We thought we could go bold. It's really as close to free college as we can get in terms of tuition." Wayne State officials expect to see an uptick in students coming to their school. "What happens if we are overrun with students?" Medley said. "That would be amazing." She said Wayne State will be able to accommodate any additional students. She said the university is also prepared to help students, recognizing that many students, especially first-generation students, have challenges to succeed at college beyond just cost of attendance. "We want to be stretched in supporting students," Medley said. "We will be ready to take on the challenge."

How a Detroit area university’s debt-relief program has welcomed back and graduated students

Black college students are three times more likely to default on their loans than their white peers, and there are nearly 700,000 college students in the Detroit area that have dropped out after taking some classes but before earning a degree. Wayne State University’s Warrior Way Back debt-relief program is welcoming those students back, including recent graduate Shawnte’ Cain and Antonio Mitchell, who is currently a senior in the Mike Ilitch School of Business. “For me, Warrior Way Back is more of a social justice mentality and mindset in higher education, that we are knocking down those barriers for students to reach their potential. That’s successful in and of itself,” said Dawn Medley, associate vice president of enrollment management.
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Ransomware: holding communities hostage

Ransomware is the scariest entity information technology experts, business executives and municipal leaders are currently facing on the computer landscape. According to the FBI, ransomware is a type of malicious software cyber actors use to infiltrate computer systems and then deny access to those systems and data. The malicious cyber actor invades systems and holds the system or data hostage until the ransom is paid – hopefully. After an initial infection, the ransomware attempts to spread to shared storage drives and other accessible systems, extending the reach of the tentacles of the ransomware and preventing the use of the affected machines. If the demands for ransom are not met, the system or encrypted data remains unavailable, data may be deleted – and the business or government is hobbled and, sometimes, totally incapacitated. “The people delivering the ransomware – they're being run by criminal elements. They're definitely not a 14-year-old in their mom's basement,” emphasized Garrett McManaway, senior director, Information Security and Compliance, Wayne State University, who has spent years in the information technology industry before taking over IT for Wayne State last year. “Like any well-run business, they're going to find their potential targets to make their returns on investment.” McManaway explains further, “Where ransomware has become prevalent in the last four to five years has been with hospitals and health care systems, where they've been shut down. Two, three years ago, the bad actors moved on to manufacturing companies, such as several (international) shipping companies, public corporations, where they shut them down for a few days. Now, I'm not sure why municipalities are being hit, but being a public institution, they are a business, and they're after the same thing.”