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MSU professor to help lead new $15M suicide prevention research center

A Michigan State University professor will help lead a newly established suicide prevention research center focused on reaching people in the jail system who are at risk of taking their own lives. The National Center for Health and Justice Integration for Suicide Prevention will be funded for five years with a $15 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. The data gathered will be used to notify administrators at three Michigan jails taking part in the studies when someone who is being held is identified as at-risk for suicide and in need of further assessments or support, said Sheryl Kubiak, dean of social work at Wayne State University and director of the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice. Kubiak, who will oversee the study, said the jails involved aren’t yet finalized. She’s hoping it presents another tool for jail staff in identifying people in crisis and addressing that. “Most of the mechanisms that jails have when people come in are self-reporting,” she said, and while staff at every jail ask people during intake if they are suicidal, there are many things that stop people from being honest about their mental state.  
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Damon J. Keith Center initiative welcomes seventh program cohort

Challenging racism is hard, painful work. Detroit, however, has a new cohort of racial equity leaders taking that challenge head-on. The Detroit Equity Action Lab (DEAL) recently announced its seventh cohort of Racial Equity Fellows to join its multiracial and multigenerational network of leaders dedicated to ending structural racism in Detroit. The 2022 cohort of 28 diverse fellows represent more than 10 sectors, including public policy/advocacy, human services, art, and education. “DEAL 7 is our first hybrid cohort and we are thrilled to be back in person to deliver programming and curate a physical space for connection, collaboration, and learning,” said Asandi Conner, DEAL’s director.  
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GM's move to boost domestic partner, transgender benefits helps it compete

By Jamie L. LaReau  General Motors is reinstating health care benefits to its U.S. salaried employees' same-sex domestic partners and their kids and, in a first for the automaker, is also going to allow employees to add opposite-sex, unmarried partners and their children to their health plans. GM's move, part of an effort toward its goal to be the most inclusive company in the world, will also expand the medical benefits it already offers to transgender salaried employees in the United States. The initiatives start January 1, 2023. GM's strategy, while significant for its goal, is not groundbreaking. This time a year ago, Stellantis reinstated its offering of domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples, adding it to the inclusion of employees with opposite-sex partners, which was not the case previously. The offering is still in effect. Stellantis has also offered similar medical benefits to transgender people. Similarly, Ford Motor Co. provides domestic partner benefits in the states that require it. Since 2021, Ford has covered various transgender-related medical procedures and it will add new services next year. GM's newest offerings are more "in the middle of the curve" than ahead of it, said Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University who specializes in business, labor, human resource management, conflict resolution and employee relations. "They are essentially catching up," he said of GM. "Recruitment and retention are difficult in auto because of the waves of technological change, continual restructurings due to electrification, and portending demand for product challenges, domestically and globally, on the heels of supply (chain) difficulties." 

Wayne State adds American Sign Language to teaching curriculum

Deaf people say they sometimes feel like they’re leaving on a different planet from those who hear, but when both learn to use American Sign Language, it can open up a new world of communication. In Detroit, Wayne State University is taking notice. The school’s College of Education recently included a Deaf Studies minor in its curriculum, and the classes are filling up. As the program grows, the school is actively recruiting people who are deaf or hard of hearing as teachers. Kathryn Roberts, interim assistant dean of teacher education at Wayne State, said it would not make sense to teach ASL without instructors from the deaf culture. “It was really important to our division that we had people from the deaf community working with us, because deaf culture is a huge piece of what we wanted to be teaching, Roberts explained. “And education programs, particularly Wayne State’s education program, we have a huge focus on the community.” Roberts added there are an estimated 400,000 deaf people in Michigan, which means the program potentially affects one out of every 20 people in the state. Emily Jo Noschese, assistant professor of bilingual and bicultural education, was one of the first instructors the school recruited. Noschase, who is fourth-generation deaf, not only teaches ASL, but has helped identify and hire five part-time ASL instructors. “Anybody that’s working in a business, somebody who might own a business or a company, they are guaranteed to have a deaf person that might want to come in and work for them,” Noschese said. “They learn sign language; that could benefit the rapport between them and the client, because they will be able to communicate with them.”   
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One on one with Wayne State’s M. Roy Wilson in his last year as president

By Donald James  Since becoming the 12th president of Wayne State University on August 1, 2013, Dr. M. Roy Wilson has been on a successful mission to elevate the urban institution to take its rightful place as a local, national, and international leader across the broad sectors of higher education. Wilson announced in August that he was stepping down from his top university position when his contract expires July 31, 2023. “I feel that the time is right for a transition in leadership at the University,” Wilson said. “I had numerous conversations with family, friends, and colleagues before making my decision not to renew my contract. While there’s more that I can do as president, I realized that after almost ten years, I’ve accomplished most of the goals that are important to the University and its growth.” Among those many accomplishments credited to Wilson include guiding Wayne State to achieve the nation’s most-improved graduation rate between the years 2012 to 2018. In fall 2020, the University admitted its largest incoming class ever. Among Black students, the graduation rate at WSU has risen from 7% when Wilson came aboard as president to a current 40% - and is climbing.  
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‘Everybody’s voice matters every election’: Students push for Election Day holiday

By Johanna Alonso  Students – including one advocate at Temple – are pushing for an Election Day holiday this year, even though the presidency is not at stake. Advocates say that having the day off encourages young people not only to vote but also participate in the election by working at the polls or watching the election results with other students. Plus, supporters argue, it sends a message that the university considers voting and civic engagement high priorities. During the highly contentious 2020 presidential election, student efforts to make Election Day a campus holiday had a strong impact, proving successful in many cases. Colleges such as American University and George Washington University, Augsburg University and Wayne State University in Michigan canceled classes two years ago in the hopes of improving voter turnout among students. “A lot of our students have families, they work and they go to school, so they are busy,” Brandon Shamoun, coordinator of student engagement in the Dean of Students Office, said in a 2020 announcement. “This holiday gives them time to ensure they can go and vote. It really showcases the university’s commitment to civic engagement.”  
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Wayne State dedicates Colonel Gregory Gadson Office of Military and Veterans Academic Excellence

U.S. Army Col. Gregory Gadson served his country in every conflict from 1989 until May 2007, when a vehicle he was traveling in hit a roadside bomb. Gadson spent the next week fighting for his life at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He lived, but Gadson, a U.S. Military Academy graduate and football player who served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Joint Forge, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom – had lost both legs above the knees and normal use of his right arm and hand. Oc Oct. 28, Wayne State University will unveil the Colonel Gregory Gadson Office of Military and Veterans Academic Excellence in his honor. Jim Anderson, a College of Engineering alumnus and founder of Urban Science, a Detroit-based automotive consultancy and technology firm, made a gift of $1 million to support the WSU Office of Military and Veterans Academic Excellence. 
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How augmented reality helps patients overcome phobias

Psychiatrists have found that one of the most effective ways of treating patients with phobias is to expose them to the very thing they are afraid of. Exposure therapy, as it’s called, is unique in that in order to help someone who is afraid of snakes, for example, you’d have to bring a live snake into the office. Dr. Arash Javanbakht, director of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic (STARC) at Wayne State University, started a project about seven years ago to work around bringing reptiles into the office. The project sought to help confront their fears through a new type of exposure therapy, conducted solely through augmented reality, or AR. This study aims to help patients with phobias confront their instinctual fears by creating technology that could insert lifelike visuals of what they feared in their environment. Patients can put on a headset and see the same room they saw before, just with the addition of their fears – in the case of this study, spiders. Javanbakht says, “this could definitely be a big part of the future of the psychiatric field.”   
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Attendance rates in Michigan schools reach five-year low

By Sascha Raiyn  Attendance in Michigan schools fell during the 2021-22 academic year. The Detroit Free Press reports the statewide attendance rate has fallen below 90% for the first time in five years, hitting 88% last year. Detroit’s public school system has struggled with attendance throughout the COVID pandemic. DPSCD’s attendance rate for the 2021 school year was around 75%. According to Sarah Lenhoff, a professor of education at Wayne State University, housing insecurity made worse by the pandemic is a major factor in chronic absenteeism. “We’re seeing that revert back to normal and maybe even worse than normal in terms of students experiencing housing instability,” Lenhoff said. “We know that housing instability, homelessness, eviction are just really high correlates to attendance problems.”  

Influx of emotional support animals prompts Michigan legislation

Michigan university housing officials and off-campus landlords are alarmed about the influx of fake certification letters for emotional support animals. The Emotional Support Act, passed in the Michigan House in September, would penalize people who sell online certificates and protect landlords from fraudulent claims. Universities in Michigan report an increase in the requests for emotional support animals and fake verifications. “We try to talk to the student immediately when we suspect illegitimate documentation, “ said Cherise M. Frost, the interim director of disability at Wayne State University. “We try to handle the situation very carefully. We’re the students’ advocates, and we want them to have everything they need to succeed. However, we do have to follow certain guidelines,” she said. The increased number of emotional support animals hasn’t been much of a problem, she said.  
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Report: International student population in Michigan generates $825M in annual economic activity

By Jake Bekemeyer  State government officials joined leaders from the Detroit Regional Chamber, private industry, and Digital Lakes to discuss Global Detroit’s newest research, chronicling the growing importance of international student talent to the state’s economic competitiveness. A research report documents the exponential growth of international student talent in Michigan’s economy over the past decade, chronicling a 330% growth rate in the annual number of international students hired by Michigan employers. Global Detroit’s study was based upon first-of-its-kind data obtained by the Pew Research Center tracking international students working in the U.S. under their student visas after graduation. Global Detroit worked with the University Research Corridor, including Wayne State University, and other schools and advocacy groups to launch the Global Talent Retention Initiative in 2011.  
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Mobile health meets Detroiters ‘where they are’ for care

By Julie Walker After two decades of providing care in the Sinai-Grace emergency room, nurse Josephine Quaye-Molex has embraced a new way of connecting with patients. In late July, the venue was a van parked outside Immanuel Grace AME Church on Conner. Quaye-Molex joined the Wayne Health Mobile Unit about a year ago and said the ease of access has been reassuring for those who often have felt dismissed or mistrustful of doctors in traditional healthcare settings. The mobile units, she said, are meeting residents where they are and, in turn, building trust in the community. The setting also gives Quaye-Molex a chance to offer more feedback than the hospital’s ER might typically allow. “I get a lot more time to be able to sit and talk with my patients, or whoever it is that has approached,” she said. “They don’t necessarily have to get services, they just may have questions, and I’m able to answer those questions now.” Born out of necessity during the early peaks of the pandemic, some of the most vocal advocates behind mobile health said they are hopeful that the concept will alleviate barriers to healthcare access and increase trust in underserved communities like Detroit. Dr. Phillip Levy, who practices emergency room medicine at DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital and leads the WSU and Wayne Health Mobile Unit program, is hopeful that they will help revolutionize medicine in at least two ways; easing access to care and preventing serious diseases before they start. Levy says five factors – high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol and obesity – contribute to 80% of chronic illnesses in the country, especially heart disease. Levy’s findings resulted in a grant and Wayne State University supported efforts to turn that data into a tool. The tool, coined PHOENIX, is intended to be used by community members and healthcare professionals to identify and curb risk factors before they turn into deadly disease. “At the end of the day, we’re going to affect the most people by screening for the most common disorders and diseases and fixing those problems,” Dr. Levy said.