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Wayne State University’s Board of Governors recognizes National Gun Violence Survivors Week

The Wayne State University Board of Governors voted unanimously over the weekend to declare the first week of February as National Gun Violence Survivors Week. The action was taken following a request at the Jan. 29 meeting by Megan Dombrowski, president of the WSU Students Demand Action of Gun Sense in America group. The board will ratify its vote and consider if the designation will be recurring at its March 12 meeting. WSU first commemorated National Gun Violence Survivors Week last year, to honor and remember all victims and survivors of gun violence. National Gun Violence Survivors Week is also recognized by the State of Michigan, following a proclamation by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Gun violence is an all-too-common occurrence here in Detroit and in our nation,” said Marilyn Kelly, chair of the WSU Board of Governors. “The board respects our students’ initiative in raising awareness of this issue and in honoring those lives lost to gun violence. We are proud to stand with our students.”
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MDHHS, Wayne State University, to provide mobile COVID-19 testing

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is partnering with Wayne State University and Wayne Health to provide mobile COVID-19 testing. The partnership comes in an effort to reach more Michiganders in need of COVID-19 testing and other public health services. This new program allows three mobile units to move between sites and serve communities at the highest risk. Locations are chosen in part to help address racial and ethnic disparities that had existed prior to the pandemic and were exacerbated by the virus – a focus of the Racial Disparities Task Force. Wayne Health’s Mobile Health Unit offers an array of health care screenings, including COVID testing, flu shots, blood pressure screening, HIV testing and on-site referrals for public benefit programs such as Medicaid and unemployment assistance and emergency food and shelter services addressing social determinants. “Partnering with the state will expand our efforts to bring these vital services to more Michigan residents who need them,” said Phillip Levy, M.D., M.P.H., who leads the Mobile COVID Testing Program for Wayne Health and is WSU’s assistant vice president for Translational Sciences and Clinical Research Innovation. “This work is a key element of who we are as a university and as a practice group. Meeting people and providing services where they live is critical not only to containing the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential to improving health in general.” 
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Researchers assess impact of family migration on infant well-being

While the number of immigrants from Arab countries to the United States has steadily increased over the past several years, family and child health research on this population remains scarce. To address this disparity, Dalia Khalil, Ph.D., RN, assistant professor in Wayne State University's College of Nursing, was recently awarded a two-year, $161,451 grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health. Khalil and her team will expand on her previous research on immigrant Arab American parents and families.
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Opinion | Michigan economic development is a failure. Time to focus on people

Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University and president and CEO of TechTown, and Lou Glazer, president of Michigan Future, Inc., wrote a guest column for Bridge Michigan. “Michigan faces the prime economic challenge of our times: creating an economy that provides enough household-supporting jobs so that all working households can raise a family and pass on a better opportunity to their children. A prosperous Michigan is a place with a broad middle class where wages and benefits allow everyone to pay the bills, save for retirement and the kids’ education, and pass on a better opportunity to the next generation. Even in Michigan's strong pre-pandemic economy, 43 percent of households – most with at least one working adult – could not pay for basic necessities. When more than four in 10 Michigan families are struggling, our state is not succeeding, and our economic developers are failing. As long-time economic developers ourselves (who very much implicate ourselves when we talk about failing), we believe the primary goal of state economic policy should be rising household income for all Michigan residents. Meeting this challenge requires not only that the state make rising income for all its top economic priority, but that it reevaluate and redesign its economic development infrastructure accordingly. This mission change will also require us to think differently not just about state and regional economic development efforts, but how they coordinate with community development, housing and workforce development policies and programs as well.”
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Wayne State receives $1.2M to help veterans complete college

Wayne State University has received $1.2 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Education to supplement student success services for military veterans over five years. The $1.2 million Veterans — Student Support Services grant enhances services provided by the Office of Military Veterans Academic Excellence. The grant will serve 120 currently enrolled student veterans each academic year and provide intensive advising, career preparation, financial aid information, and benefits assistance. “Given the unique needs of our undergraduate veteran population, the VET-SSS grant will provide WSU with the additional resources needed to fully actualize our vision of truly comprehensive veteran academic support services on campus,” says Matthew McLain, assistant director of OMVAE. The grant is a collaborative effort between OMVAE and of the Office of Federal TRIO Programs’ Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) program, which helps veterans transition from the classroom to the workforce. “The VET-SSS program is designed to make a significant contribution to the student-veteran experience,” says Henry Robinson, senior director of the Office of Federal TRIO. “The Office of Military Veterans Academic Excellence and Veterans Upward Bound provide high-quality services and programs dedicated to meeting the academic support needs of this dynamic group of students.”
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Why Covid vaccines are likely safe for pregnant people

As the initial priority groups are being offered a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., one population in particular faces a difficult decision: Pregnant people who are health care personnel or essential workers—categories that are eligible for the early phases of the vaccination program—“may choose to be vaccinated,” according to the latest official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The problem is that there are scant data available on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant individuals. They were not included in the clinical trials, as has historically been the case with most vaccines and drugs. For many years, it was believed that pregnancy was a state of immunologic weakness. The fact that pregnant individuals died more from diseases such as influenza was attributed to this state. More recently, it became clear that immunologic changes in pregnancy were much more complex than that. “They were not dying because they were immunosuppressed,” says Gil Mor, scientific director of the C. S. Mott Center for Human Growth and Development at Wayne State University. “They were dying because their immune system was so strong and activated that they produced a massive inflammation that killed them.” Mor, who is an expert in the immunology of pregnancy, says there are several mechanisms to maintain the delicate balance between too much and too little inflammation during that state. If this balance is not maintained for any reason, the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms rises.
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Wayne State board appoints chair, pledges to 'renew our efforts to work together'

The Wayne State University Board of Governors met Friday for the first time this year, with two newly elected members, and unanimously approved reappointing Marilyn Kelly as chair. "I consulted in recent weeks with other members of the Board of Governors and each of us has pledged to renew our efforts to work together in the best interest of this great university, and we've agreed on our intentions," Kelly said during the meeting, conducted remotely. 
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Wayne State researchers use AI to bring micro-transit to hourly workers

Researchers at Wayne State University are working to bring micro-transit solutions to those who live in affordable housing so they can get to their jobs. The National Science Foundation is helping to fund the project. Micro-transit, which exists between traditional transit options such as buses and ride-hailing technology, is designed to complement public transportation. Detroit and other cities have begun to adopt the concept, the researchers say, as a means of increasing coverage and reaching more people, particularly in low-density or low-income areas. However, there is a shortcoming — the service often isn’t available on paths between areas of affordable housing and employment opportunities. “With the rise of artificial intelligence and increasingly available smart mobility data, the vision of this research project is to create a dynamic routing-prediction system based on learning the hourly mobility patterns between jobs and housing,” says Dongxiao Zhu, associate professor of computer science in the College of Engineering at Wayne State, and the project’s principal investigator. The researchers will design an artificial intelligence-assisted micro-transit system that transportation officials can deploy to better adapt to place and time variations in the mobility patterns of hourly workers. Geocoded socioeconomic data can be used to identify and reduce mobility disparities. “The research innovation is expected to provide immediate, low-cost, effective public transit solutions that benefit vulnerable communities in Detroit by significantly reducing transit risk, commute time and distance, and trip cost,” says Zhu.
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COVID Update: New variants complicate future of pandemic in Michigan

Wayne State University’s Dr. Paul Kilgore discusses the latest developments around COVID-19 and what Michiganders can do to remain vigilant in slowing the spread of the virus. Many people are hopeful that the COVID vaccine is a light at the end of a nearly year-long tunnel that has taken Americans very far away from what life was like pre-pandemic. But now, as Michigan and other states are struggling to get the vaccine distributed, there’s an even bigger obstacle: The emergence of several new variants of the coronavirus. “The virus is actually changing its genetic code. It’s changing over time. All viruses do that, and we expected it from the beginning,” says Kilgore, associate professor and director of research at Wayne State University Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He’s also the principal investigator at Henry Ford Health System’s testing of Moderna’s vaccine trial. As far as the severity of COVID-19 symptoms in the new variants, Kilgore says there is some research indicating that these mutations could create more complicated cases of the virus. In looking ahead to how these new variants could impact the future of life in Michigan and throughout the country, Kilgore says, “I think there’s a chance this gets worse before it gets better in the next several weeks.”

How to get accepted into college with a low GPA

For students who struggle academically in high school, the college application process can be especially stressful. A low GPA can prevent teens from getting accepted into top universities — like the Ivy League schools — and other selective colleges, but there are still options. Admissions experts say high schoolers can explain an academic dip in their college applications and spend the rest of their senior year making their applications more appealing. Another piece of advice: Students should discover the root cause of those academic shortcomings. Students can discuss poor grades in a college application essay, also called a personal statement, or in the additional information field on the Common Application. “Anything that the student can provide to explain that (GPA) would be helpful,” says Monica Brockmeyer, senior associate provost for student success at Wayne State University. “They should be transparent, because (GPA) is already visible to admissions officers through their transcripts. Colleges already know, so they’re looking to understand the situation and circumstances better.” She adds that admissions officials understand that “every learner is on a journey. For those eyeing a four-year college, an alternative admissions program may be the way in. If a student’s GPA is below the school’s standards, he or she may still be admitted under certain conditions. As part of the program, students receive additional academic support in their first year of college and beyond, depending on the curriculum. One such example is Academic Pathways to Excellence at Wayne State, which focuses on sharpening students’ academic skills as they enter college. “It provides them a transition period between high school and college to really understand how college learning is different from high school learning, to get extended support or even some remediation of writing skills or mathematics skills or other barriers like that,” Brockmeyer says.
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Metro Detroiters react to Whitmer's State of the State address focusing on COVID-19, roads

It was a State of the State unlike any other, with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaking to Michiganders virtually from her Capitol office on Wednesday night. As expected, the governor focused heavily on the pandemic, vaccinations, the state's economy and schools. Despite the year it's been, the governor had a sense of optimism about the road ahead and that's something people noticed, including a political science professor at Wayne State University. Professor Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson was encouraged overall by the governor's address. She says bipartisanship will be key to the administration reaching its goals in 2021. Whitmer also addressed education. She's previously said she'd like to see students return to the classroom by March 1. “I think it’s going to be important just to get the younger kids back at least in smaller groups," Thompson said. “I’m a little bit concerned about how fast we’re going to be able to get the teachers vaccinated.”
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Wayne State secures more than $5 million in NIH funding for cerebral palsy research

The National Institutes of Health is supporting a Wayne State University School of Medicine physician-researcher’s work at preventing and treating cerebral palsy in the form of two new five-year R01 grants worth a collective $5.59 million. The principal investigator on both projects is Sidhartha Tan, M.D., professor and co-division chief of Neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics. Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood, caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control his or her muscles. Tan obtained his first R01 last May for “Potent Neuronal Nitric Oxide Synthase Inhibition for Prevention of Cerebral Palsy,” which will provide $2,393,590 over the half-decade award period to test new, promising drugs aimed at a preventive cure for the condition. “These are new drugs aimed at brain condition called neuronal nitric oxide synthase. New information about how these drugs act, how they affect brain cells and how effective they are in an animal model of cerebral palsy will be very valuable for future translation to clinical use in humans throughout the world,” Tan said. His second, a multiple principal investigator award launched Dec. 15, is “Probing Role of Tetrahydrobiopterin in Cerebral Palsy by Using Transgenic Rabbits.” The grant will provide $3,197,644 in funding over five years to explore whether an essential enzyme co-factor is involved in brain injury before birth. The cellular and genetic basis of brain regional injury will be investigated using an animal model in which genes have been altered by genetic engineering methods, as well as advanced methods of magnetic resonance imaging.
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Sensor shows promise for continuous heart and lung health tracking

A small, liquid-filled sensor can continuously and accurately measure heart and lung sounds, detecting cardiac problems or shortness of breath at an early stage, something which could warn heart failure patients of health deterioration and also help pick up early signs of infections such as Covid-19. Many of us own smart watches or fitness trackers, a large number of which now include heart rate monitors. However, while their accuracy has improved, they offer fairly limited information about heart health. They mostly measure heart rate by shining a green light through the skin, a method called photoplethysmography, which controversially works much better on lighter rather than darker skin. Heart sounds, such as those heard by a stethoscope, can give a more accurate picture of heart health as they can pick up inconsistencies of rhythm as well as rate. But have been historically harder to track using a wearable device. To try and get round this problem, Yong Xu, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Wayne State University, and his team have developed a small flexible sensor that can be worn continuously on the chest to measure heart and lung sounds. “Heart and respiration activities offer pivotal physiological and pathological information through mechano-acoustic signals. Continuous monitoring of these signals has the potential to significantly improve the diagnosis and management of many cardiovascular and respiratory diseases,” emphasizes Xu.
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The movement to relax ban on psychedelic drugs

Today, small groups of scientists, psychologists and other medical professionals are looking at psychedelics once again for the claims that they can be beneficial for those suffering from severe mental health issues. The movement for decriminalization has focused primarily on those efforts, although some proponents also advocate for those who choose to safely use psychedelics recreationally. Susanne Brummelte, professor of psychology at Wayne State University, said today the study and understanding of psychedelics is “an emerging field because it was illegal. They've been Schedule I drugs, so it's very difficult to do research, though there is beginning to be some research on the medical benefits of LSD, and they're getting some idea that with a guided trip it can help with depression and other issues.” Scott Bowen, professor and chair of the department of psychology at Wayne State University, said, “Decriminalization allows for some research to study depression, anxiety, mood enhancement. The question is, does it really happen? Unless there's a placebo – a negative – you don't have a scientific study to determine efficacy. There's a lot of anecdotal information that can be attributed to the placebo effect.” Bowen and Brummelte believe there needs to be more research on the medical benefits of microdosing, as well. “LSD is a powerful drug. It affects your serotonin receptors, so it will definitely change your brain,” said Bowen. “The question is, is that happening with microdosing? There are a lot of unknowns. It's just so new. LSD by itself is the most potent – you just need a teeny amount, but it is also the most effective.”
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Wayne State seeks volunteers for COVID-19 vaccine trial

Wayne State University’s School of Medicine needs people to roll up their sleeves for research’s sake. The school is part of a nationwide clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine made by Novavax, Inc. Phase 3 of the trial will help scientists determine whether it’s effective at preventing infection. Dr. Elizabeth Secord is heading up WSU’s involvement in the trial. She says her team needs about 300 volunteers. “Two-thirds will get the vaccine, one third will get a placebo,” she says. “We can compare rates of COVID, look at antibodies and see the effectiveness of the vaccine.” At first, researchers wanted a large number of higher-risk candidates, such as people 65 and older, individuals with underlying health conditions and people of color. They can still enroll, but now that many older people are eligible to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, Wayne State is actively seeking younger volunteers for the study. “People who are, for example, 60, 50, 40, even in their 20s who are not likely to get a vaccine for several months,” Secord says. “It would be good for them to consider entering such a trial.” Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine does not use messenger RNA. Secord says she hopes that will encourage people to join the clinical trial, though she stresses that concerns about mRNA are unfounded, noting that she has already been vaccinated. “I think that this vaccine will be safe, the other vaccines are safe, and that people should take what they can get as soon as they can get it,” she says. If the Novavax vaccine passes its trials, Secord says she hopes it will be approved for emergency use within six months.
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Jackson College and Wayne State University set to partner in new equity initiative

Jackson College is partnering with Wayne State University to place effort into Equity Transfer Initiative (ETI). This Equity Transfer Initiative is led by the American Association of Community Colleges to improve transfer success. This is to help students who may face barriers when it comes to transferring from community colleges to universities. The two-year Equity Transfer Initiative awards up to $27,500 to partnerships to increase transfer and completion for underrepresented student populations, including African American, Hispanic, adult, and first-generation students. “I’m delighted that Jackson College is one of 16 higher education partnerships chosen nationally to participate in this project. This forward-looking project is designed to enhance the academic completion of under-represented students and ensure their successful transfer to a baccalaureate-granting institution – in our case, Wayne State University,” said Dr. Daniel J. Phelan, president. “We are deeply grateful to Dr. Ahmad Ezzeddine from Wayne State for his leadership and partnership in this important work.”
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Macomb County government has a new look in 2021

Prior to the November general election, three of the five Macomb County offices up for grabs were held by Democrat party members. The Macomb County Board of Commissioners was also a Democratic majority. But on Nov. 3, the positions of prosecutor and clerk/register of deeds shifted from Democrat to Republican, leaving the position of sheriff as the lone Democrat-held seat. Now, Peter Lucido is prosecutor and Anthony Forlini is clerk, while Larry Rocca, Candice Miller and Anthony Wickersham remain in their roles of treasurer, public works commissioner and sheriff, respectively. For the BOC, a couple commissioners indicated that it is the first time in the county’s history that the board has a Republican majority. So what does that mean for the people of Macomb County? Maybe not much, according to officials and experts. Wayne State University Professor Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson said she looks at county government in her Michigan politics class. She has been a political science professor at the university since 1991. When it comes to county government, she said for the position of public works commissioner, she would want one with a civil engineering background, regardless of party identification. Sarbaugh-Thompson believes placing a political party next to one’s name on a voting ballot helps voters decide. “On a ballot as long as Michigan’s, how do you figure out who you want for different positions, when you’ve never heard of these people?” Sarbaugh-Thompson said. “Many voters pick things based on party cues. It at least gives you a ballpark feel at the angle a particular candidate would come at an issue.”
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Opinion: COVID-19 vaccine is a game-changer that can stop the pandemic

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson, Michigan State President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.,  and University of Michigan President Mark S. Schlissel wrote an op-ed regarding the COVID-19 vaccine as a means to stop the pandemic. “As presidents of the three major public research universities that make up Michigan’s University Research Corridor — Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University — we’ve been on the front lines of battling the COVID-19 pandemic. URC researchers have worked to develop tests, treat the virus and create vaccines. We’re training thousands of physicians, nurses and other health care workers in dealing with the virus. We’re helping educators, business owners and government officials deal with the challenges of COVID-19. As COVID-19 case counts continue to rise across the United States, getting everyone possible vaccinated as soon as enough doses are available is vital to stopping this pandemic, reviving our national economy and getting children and college students back to in-person school. The alternative is what we have now: high caseloads that are overwhelming our hospitals and health care workers, and millions of students able to attend classes only online. Our economy will continue to falter and layoffs will increase as the coronavirus makes it unsafe to shop and dine as we normally do. Family gatherings and large meetings will remain off limits or, if held, become potential superspreader events.”
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Wayne State University: DTE Energy Foundation awards $330,000 to fund scholarships for Wayne State University Latino/a and Latin-American Studies students

The Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies (CLLAS) at Wayne State University today announced the DTE Energy Foundation awarded a $330,000 grant that will fund scholarships to open doors for students from underrepresented communities through the DTE Energy Foundation/MiHC Scholarship. This grant is the DTE Foundation's latest commitment to CLLAS, which provides equitable access to quality university education for students interested in U.S. Latino/a and Latin-American cultural studies while enhancing diversity on campus. 'We are so grateful to the DTE Energy Foundation for this historic gift to our Center to support deserving students driven to succeed,' said Dr. Victor Figueroa, acting director, CLLAS. 'With these funds, our students can prioritize their path toward a college degree.'
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What it’s like to get the COVID-19 vaccine

Mustapha Al-shorbaji is a nursing student at Wayne State University. He sits in the lobby of the Campus Health Center with a black mask on, waiting to get a COVID-19 vaccine. “As soon as I was presented the opportunity, I took the first appointment I could get to come here,” says Al-shorbaji. Wayne State University began offering the vaccine to medical students and faculty with clinical rotations on January 7. That’s how Al-shorbaji found himself among the first people in the country to be given the chance to be inoculated against the coronavirus. In addition to frontline health care workers, vaccinations throughout Michigan have been given to some people in long-term care facilities, police officers, bus drivers, K-12 teachers, postal workers, people over the age of 65 and others. Eligibility varies depending on where people live, work, or go to the doctor. As of January 19, according to data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, about 75,800 people in Michigan have received at least the first dose of the vaccine. In a state that’s estimated to have roughly 8 million people age 16 and up (according to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey), that means less than 1% of the population has been vaccinated.