In the news

News outlet logo for favicons/detroitnews.com.png

Researchers study how algal bloom toxins may harm Great Lakes air

Toxins from harmful algal blooms are well-known as water polluters, but now researchers are looking at how they harm Great Lakes air. Algae blooms occur because of a warming climate and nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from activities like agriculture, said Judy Westrick, a chemistry professor at Wayne State University. In the Great Lakes region, algal blooms occur in inland lakes and the western basin of Lake Erie, primarily in shallow water, Westrick said. Research focuses on water quality because of observations, she said. When people became sick after swimming in toxic water, scientists began researching it. However, now that water quality is better understood, scientists are branching out into understanding algae toxins and air, Westrick said. “You’re probably going to see, in probably the next year, like 100 studies on aerosol. Aerosol has become a big thing because of a couple of factors.” The factors are part of climate change, she said. For example, heavy rainfall can cause waves and break up harmful algae, releasing particles that could be toxic in the air. The expert consensus is algae blooms will get worse as climate change and runoff worsen, Westrick said. Algae essentially eat nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients from agricultural runoff. “If you take care of the nutrients and you don’t have the nutrient load, then then they won’t get worse, but if everything stayed the same, the nutrient load, and it just gets warmer, we expect them to go longer,” Westrick said.
News outlet logo for favicons/michiganchronicle.com.png

Wayne State Office of Women’s Health and Wayne Health Launch Well-Woman Wednesdays

The Office of Women’s Health at Wayne State University, in partnership with the Wayne Health Mobile Unit program, will introduce Well-Woman Wednesdays, bringing free mobile health screenings and health education to the community at a variety of locations beginning July 14. The first Well-Woman Wednesday will take place from 2 to 6 p.m. at the headquarters of Alternatives for Girls. The project seeks to educate and empower women to achieve better health by providing them with screening, resources and connections to health care providers on their journey to improved wellness. “With Well-Woman Wednesdays, the Wayne State University Office of Women’s Health aims to expand health care to vulnerable communities impacted most by health disparities and lack of access to health care, thus improving the health of women overall,” said Sonia Hassan, M.D., associate vice president and founder of the Office of Women’s Health and a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Wayne State University. “The development of a women-focused mobile health unit aiming to improve health literacy and provide reliable methods and resources for the establishment and pursuit of care will improve accessibility of health care to women and eventually narrow the gap in health disparities.” The Wayne Health Mobile Unit program began in April 2020, bringing COVID-19 testing, and later vaccinations, to tens of thousands of people across Michigan. “This latest project is an extension of our initial testing and vaccination efforts,” said Phillip Levy, M.D., M.P.H., a WSU professor of Emergency Medicine and chief innovation officer for Wayne Health. “It makes perfect sense to expand the array of health care and health care education services that our mobile units can provide for communities, assisting people in the comfort of their own surroundings.”

Recorded cases of influenza dropped to ZERO at one Detroit hospital in 2020 as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions killed flu season

Cases of influenza plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic, with one Detroit health system having a zero percent positivity rate for the virus, a new study finds. Researchers from Wayne State University looked at data from the Detroit Medical Center for the 2019-20 and the 2020-21 flu seasons. They found that every single one of the 6,830 tests administered for adults, and the 1,441 for children came back negative for Influenza A and Influenza B during the 2020-21 (September 2021 to February 2021) flu season. There were also zero positive tests for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in adults - out of 6,822 - and one for children among 1,404 tests. The findings add to the wealth of existing information that shows social distancing and mask mandates put in place to protect from COVID-19 were effective in combatting the flu. Researchers expect cases of the flu to return to normal levels now, though, as many COVID precautions are dropped around the country. 'It is likely that the number of cases of flu and other respiratory infections will rise back to normal in the coming years as SARS-CoV-2 becomes a seasonal virus,' said Siri Sarvepalli, a member of the research team at Wayne State. 'However, if handwashing and other mitigating measures are followed to the same extent as last winter, numbers could instead remain lower than usual.'  The team will present its findings at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases this week. 
News outlet logo for favicons/detroitnews.com.png

Two Michigan universities expect enrollment rebound while others still see declines

Mallory Terpstra has spent summer days visiting Michigan colleges as she enters her senior year at Byron Center High School south of Grand Rapids. Terpstra is among the students that the state's universities are trying to recruit as they seek a rebound a year after college enrollment fell 6.4% in Michigan after the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world. Regional schools are reporting fewer newer admissions and declines in returning students, while the state’s two largest research universities expect to approach or surpass 2019 admissions. Among the Michigan public universities that suffered the most in the fall of 2020 were Central Michigan and Ferris State with 17,344 and 11,165 students, respectively, 11% declines from the previous year, according to a report by the Michigan Association of State Universities. Not far behind were Eastern Michigan University, with 16,324 students enrolled, a decline of 8% from fall 2019, and the University of Michigan-Flint, with 6,829 students, a drop of 6%. Least affected were the state's Big Three public universities. Enrollments at UM, MSU and Wayne State declined 0.4%, 0.2% and 2.2%, respectively. At Oakland, enrollment dipped 2.4% to 18,555 students in fall 2020.
News outlet logo for favicons/detroitnews.com.png

Matiss Kivlenieks' death illustrates one of three ways that fireworks can kill

The death of an NHL goalie in a fireworks accident Sunday illustrates the powerful impact mortar-style pyrotechnics can have on the human body, medical and bioengineering experts said Tuesday. Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks, 24, died Sunday at the home of his position coach, former Red Wing Manny Legace, during a July 4 party. Police initially believed he may have slipped exiting a hot tub, but a caller to 911 said he was hit in the chest by a firework, recordings released Tuesday show. The initial report led police to believe Kivlenieks died of a head injury. Dragovic said Tuesday there was no indication of any head trauma. After a direct impact to the chest, it's not surprising that Kivlenieks didn't survive, said professor Cynthia Bir, chair of biomedical engineering at Wayne State University, whose research focuses on human injury tolerances. "It's more than a blast injury, he had blunt trauma," Bir said. "With his injury, it was a freak accident. This is one of the dangers that can occur with fireworks." The incident is a reminder of the varied risks of fireworks, Bir said. Most fireworks accident victims walk away with burns, she said, and that's why certain levels of fireworks are illegal, she said. "Even people who are trained to compose firework displays face the risks of injuries. It's not something that should be taken lightly," Bir said. "I think they're readily available, but I don't think people truly understand the risks."
News outlet logo for favicons/wdet.org.png

As Michigan rapidly ages, “We are not at all prepared” for the burdens of long-term care

“The number of Americans 65 and older is expected to nearly double in the next 40 years,” according to a recent Kaiser Health News report. Experts say the aggregate cost of care for our elderly population is ballooning, particularly in Southeast Michigan. The burden of long-term care has fallen on families and, for many, finding adequate care and resources has proven to be a grueling process. “We are dramatically underfunded, especially in Southeast Michigan. And the population just keeps getting older,” says Tom Jankowski, associate director for research and adjunct professor of gerontology and political science. Jankowski’s work revolves around the aging of the population, as well as the historical origins and implications of policy that pertain to older adults. ”Michigan faces some special challenges because it was historically a younger state in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s … But today … it’s one of the fastest aging states,” he says. He explains there are limited resources for elderly Michigan residents. ”Unfortunately, the services are a patchwork. We’ve got the Medicaid home and community-based waiver program … In Michigan, that program is underfunded, there are wait lists in most areas of the state. And in Michigan, only about a third of our Medicaid long-term care folks are at home,” he says. ”I have been an advocate for increasing that at-home spending for years … it’s what most people prefer and it’s less expensive than putting people in nursing homes.” 
News outlet logo for favicons/freep.com.png

It's deja vu all over again for metro Detroit flood victims despite past promises

Repeated flooding has plagued homeowners in cities across the region in recent years, with Detroit, the Grosse Pointes and Dearborn getting hit hardest in last weekend's latest round. After each event, government officials offer similar reasonings for the breakdowns: historic rainfall stressed aging infrastructure beyond its capacity. Investigations are launched, lawsuits filed and promises are made. But this time some are hopeful it’s a wake-up call that will force solutions that stick. "Everybody is exhausted," said William Shuster, chair of Wayne State University's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and an expert in storm and wastewater management who himself lost a vehicle to the weekend flooding. "This is an equal opportunity disruptor, destroyer of health, property and morale." Shuster said the extreme rainfall was exacerbated by already saturated soil Friday night. In southeastern Michigan, combined sewer systems are the norm, which means storm runoff combines with sewage, often overwhelming water treatment facilities in periods of heavy rain. "It’s hard to tell if the (all) pumps were operating if it would have made a difference," Shuster said. "What we have are unpredictable rainfall events and this converges with undersized infrastructure. That’s why it’s so pronounced."
News outlet logo for favicons/scienmag.com.png

Wayne State University and Henry Ford Health System announce new initiative in cardiometabolic health and disease

Wayne State University and Henry Ford Health System announced today the launch of a basic and translational research initiative in Cardiometabolic Health and Disease as a thematic focus for program growth. The Integrated Research and Development Initiative in Cardiometabolic Health and Disease will focus on program strengths at both institutions that directly addresses health issues of cardiac disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity metabolism and kidney disease that are of particular relevance for the broad communities that the two institutions serve. “We are excited and pleased to be bringing our two institutions together to better serve our community’s cardiovascular needs,” said Mark E. Schweitzer, M.D., dean of the Wayne State University School of Medicine. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Michigan, and by joining forces with the excellent team at Henry Ford Health System, we aim to reverse this trend.”
News outlet logo for favicons/washingtonmonthly.com.png

A little college student debt relief goes a long way

President Joe Biden campaigned on a plan to provide $10,000 of federal student loan forgiveness per borrower (though he ultimately left the idea out of his proposed budget). Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, has called for blanket forgiveness of up to $50,000 in federal loans per student, while Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has proposed the cancellation of all student debt, at an eye-popping cost of $1.6 trillion. But as an innovative effort by a group of Detroit-area colleges is proving, even modest student-debt relief can have a big impact, especially if it’s coupled with a second shot at college completion for those who have discontinued their studies. Programs like Wayne State University’s Warrior Way Back and Eastern Michigan University’s Eagle Corps are offering former students a combination of loan forgiveness with a chance to finish their degrees. It’s a smart – and purposeful – approach to student-debt relief that could benefit hundreds of thousands of students nationwide. For former students who dropped out close to graduation and with relatively low debts, these barriers are unnecessarily harsh, says Wayne State University Associate Vice President Dawn Medley. “If you have a car and need tires but don’t pay off the tires, they come and get the tires, not the car,” she said. “But in higher education, we hold every bit of your academics hostage, and I just don’t think that that’s the way that we need to be going.”
News outlet logo for favicons/wxyz.com.png

What this weekend's flooding says about Michigan's infrastructure

As metro Detroit families are still dealing with the aftermath of this weekend's severe flooding, many are calling the state's infrastructure into question. "It is safe to say everyone is feeling vulnerable. We've had increasingly unpredictable extreme rainfall events. They're, basically, making our infrastructure look outdated at this time, so we're basically undersized and overstretched in response to these precipitation events," says Bill Shuster, professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Wayne State University. "What's to be done? It really demands quite a bit of assessment work. Each part of the Detroit metro area cycles water differently and, of course, we have all the infrastructure that plumbs our wastewater, stormwater system, the collection, the conveyance, the treatment, and this is aging infrastructure, we've known that for some time, and so we are really in a situation here where every aspect of the civil environmental experience, our transportation, our structural integrity (buildings), wastewater, every aspect of these critical services provided by these infrastructures is severed during an event like this. So, we really have to start looking at, again, equitable data, data assessments that take place in each area of town and you need good data to develop good engineering design approaches. That would be my general approach to this conundrum we're in. The resilience of our systems is very low at this point."
News outlet logo for favicons/news-medical.net.png

Wayne State awarded NSF grant to investigate how viruses navigate through the mucus barrier

A research team at Wayne State University led by Ashis Mukhopadhyay, associate professor of physics and astronomy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, received a three-year, $326,226 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate fundamental issues related to the passage of viruses through the mucus barrier. The project, "Transport of Virus-like Nanoparticles through Mucus," will use Mukhopadhyay's expertise in polymers and nanoscience to develop model systems, which will lead to an improved understanding of how viruses interact and transmit through the mucus. According to Mukhopadhyay, when a virus lands on the respiratory tract surface, the first line of defense it faces is the mucus layer before it reaches the underlying cell, where the actual infection occurs.
News outlet logo for favicons/scienmag.com.png

Major NIH award to Wayne State to offer state-of-the-art proteomic research capabilities

Wayne State University has been awarded a $1.29 million high instrumentation grant from the National Institutes of Health to purchase a state-of-the-art mass spectrometer for identification and quantitation of proteins in biomedical research samples. According to Paul Stemmer, the principal investigator of the project and professor of pharmaceutical sciences in Wayne State's Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and in the Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the system will bring new capabilities to the Proteomics Core Facility that will create research directions currently not possible at Wayne State. "The new ThermoFisher Scientific Orbitrap Eclipse mass spectrometer will aid researchers at Wayne State by giving them new knowledge about changes in protein abundance as well as an improved understanding of the status in signaling pathways underlying the development and progression of disease," said Stemmer. In addition to advancing science and technology at Wayne State University and in the surrounding vicinity, the instrument will aid in training students and postdocs, provide an opportunity for underserved K-12 students in Detroit to engage in hands-on educational activities, and enable product development at both startups and established local companies. "This award from the NIH will be a major asset to our faculty and others outside of the university who have a need for higher resolution, greater sensitivity and higher mass accuracy with proteomic mass spectrometry," said Stephen M. Lanier, vice president for research at Wayne State. "We are grateful for NIH's support of this important piece of equipment, which will transform research at our university and beyond."
News outlet logo for favicons/yahoo.com.png

Kornbluh assumes role as Wayne State University provost

Mark L. Kornbluh, Ph.D., who most recently served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky (UK), begins his new role as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Wayne State University on July 1. Kornbluh, who served as a history professor at UK, is a nationally respected educator, author and administrator whose extensive research spans U.S. history, oral history and academics in the age of the internet. Prior to his roles at UK, Kornbluh taught at Michigan State University from 1994 to 2009, rising from assistant professor to professor and department chair. He has also held positions at Washington University, Rice University and Oklahoma State University. "We could not have hoped for a better-qualified candidate for the provost's position, and are delighted that Mark Kornbluh will be joining the university," said Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson. "I have tremendous confidence in his ability to help us advance our mission and look forward to his guidance and leadership in all academic matters at Wayne State University."
News outlet logo for favicons/wdet.org.png

Flooding has become all too common in Southeast Michigan, but aging infrastructure remains the same

Across Southeast Michigan, communities are reeling from the destruction caused by severe storms over the weekend. Images of flooded basements and cars submerged in water under freeway underpasses served as a reminder of Detroit’s poorly adapted infrastructure to increased instances of environmental disasters. Bill Shuster is professor and chair of the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Wayne State University. He says the storms that devastated Southeast Michigan over the weekend become more of a threat each year, but the aging infrastructure remains the same. “The burden just keeps getting larger and larger each time. It’s really about social and political will to make sure resources are available.” Shuster says fixing the state’s water infrastructure is doable from an engineering standpoint, but dependent on the resources given to communities by the government. “For any type of engineering design, we need the appropriate data to do this. This is not impossible, it’s not rocket science.” Shuster says improving infrastructure equitably in Southeast Michigan takes comprehension of its communities, and, “the way that we understand how water runs through American communities … so that we can then design the sustainability and resilience.” He says responding to climate change in infrastructure will take every aspect of environmental engineering, while arguably pulling in social work as well. “We’re training engineers for the future to take on these issues and we’re in the position of we need to pull together investment, infrastructure dollars that are guided by good data that’s translated by good contemporary engineering practice.”
News outlet logo for favicons/freep.com.png

Here's what metro Detroit residents dealing with the flood aftermath should know

Detroit was inundated with flooding this weekend and many are still recovering from the aftermath. Roads were flooded, cars were abandoned on freeways and basements were damaged — leaving residents devastated by what was lost and cannot be replaced. Your basement is flooded. Now what? First things first, local and statewide agencies have made it clear that residents should stay out of flood water, both in the streets and inside their houses. It can contain dangerous bacteria, sewage, oils and debris. If you do come in contact with it, make sure to wash up after, according to MDHHS. Be careful when inspecting the damage in your basement. Wear rubber boots that are only dedicated to flood cleanup when entering the water to avoid spreading bacteria, said Carol Miller, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Wayne State University. "Unfortunately there are many people with recurrent flooding," she said. "If you've had flooding, it's likely going to happen again and the best thing to do is to have a special set of rubber boots that you keep near the basement and you only use it when you're exposed to that floodwater." Power outages during flooding results in an increase in exposure to carbon monoxide,  an odorless, colorless and deadly gas. The CDC and Michigan Poison Center are warning people to never turn on generators, pressure washers or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, wood or charcoal devices inside your home or near an open window or door, as they produce hazardous levels of carbon monoxide. "People exposed to carbon monoxide may feel as if they have a cold or the flu," stated the warning issued by the Michigan Poison Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. "Flooding shouldn't be occurring in the first place and as an engineer, I would certainly be the first to say that there are engineering approaches that, when used in a sound fashion, can prevent this sort of flooding," Miller said. Multiple options are explored in detail in a recent study conducted by Wayne State University and the University of Michigan on household flooding in Detroit. Miller added that residents affected should develop a community or network of homeowners or renters in the area to pressure local government to "pay attention to these infrastructure problems."
News outlet logo for favicons/theatlantic.com.png

We’re learning the wrong lessons from the world’s happiest countries

Since 2012, most of the humans on Earth have been given a nearly annual reminder that there are entire nations of people who are measurably happier than they are. This uplifting yearly notification is known as the World Happiness Report. With the release of each report, which is published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the question is not which country will appear at the top of the rankings, but rather which Northern European country will. Finland has been the world’s happiest country for four years running; Denmark and Norway hold all but one of the other titles (which went to Switzerland in 2015). Perhaps deeper insights can be gained from looking beyond the trends of cozy hearths and nature walks. Even the Nordic countries themselves have a lesser-known cultural ideal that probably brings happiness more reliably than hygge. Jukka Savolainen, a Finnish American sociology professor at Wayne State University, in Michigan, argued in Slate that the essence of his happy home region is best captured by lagom, a Swedish and Norwegian word meaning “just the right amount.” Savolainen even theorizes that this inclination toward moderation shapes residents’ responses to the happiness ranking’s central question. “The Nordic countries are united in their embrace of curbed aspirations for the best possible life,” he writes. “In these societies, the imaginary 10-step ladder is not so tall.”
News outlet logo for favicons/crainsdetroit.com.png

Prioritizing children’s mental health

A two-day virtual 2021 Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health Summit, held April 13-14, invited professionals and insiders to address critical topics related to mental health, wellness, substance use disorder and suicide prevention. The event was designed for clinicians, social service providers, educators, parents, and anyone who works with youth. “What is the worst stress you’ve experienced in your life?” This question can help mental health professionals get to the core of a patient’s distress. But, according to Dr. Arash Javanbakht, director of the Stress, Trauma and Anxiety Research Clinic (STARC) at Wayne State University, it often goes unasked. Javanbakht led a session on the role of trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during the summit. He explained that about 8 percent of Americans suffer from PTSD, described as an overgeneralization of fear, when memories are not where they belong in a person’s timeline. With PTSD, the brain reacts as if things are happening now, not as a memory. The brain is trained to be in a constant survival mode, making normal life nearly impossible to enjoy. Javanbakht said that diagnosing PTSD is not always a part of a children’s mental health professional’s training. “The two things you have to ask about are usually not volunteered: sex life and trauma,” he advises mental health professionals. “Trust is hard, especially when it comes to painful memories.” Javanbakht discussed different treatments for PTSD, including a variety of therapy options as well as medications. He said it’s important to see PTSD as a disease that can be treated.
News outlet logo for favicons/crainsdetroit.com.png

The Way Forward: Auto industry worries get flipped on their heads

The auto industry feared total collapse when the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to production and tanking vehicle sales brought on flashbacks to the Great Recession. Over the course of just a year, though, the problem has reversed. Automakers cannot make new cars fast enough. The reason why is that the industry is now grappling with a $110 billion dilemma the size of a fingernail. That's the estimated global revenue that will be lost this year due to the ongoing shortage of semiconductors, according to a recent analysis by Southfield-based AlixPartners. A single car part can use up to 1,000 of the tiny computer chips, which are also used in cellphones and other everyday electronics in hot demand during the pandemic. As a result of the supply shortage, new car production is expected to be cut by 4 million units this year, leaving automakers and suppliers reeling. Ford Motor Co., which has been hit particularly hard, said it expects to lose half of its production for the second quarter. While the fractured supply chain poses daunting challenges to profitability, the consensus is that it beats the alternative of a sustained economic recession, which most experts now are not expecting. "Despite all the dire predictions, there seem to be some signs of improvement," said John Taylor, chair of the department of marketing and supply chain management at Wayne State University. While Detroit remains the "mecca of automotive," local automakers and suppliers would be wise to sharpen their focus on the much larger, existential challenge looming ahead, Taylor said. That is the race for dominance in the electric and autonomous vehicle space, which many observers would argue Silicon Valley is winning.
News outlet logo for favicons/freep.com.png

Don Cheadle says Detroit 'absolutely a character' after filming 'No Sudden Move'

There are important themes embedded in “No Sudden Move” — things like corporate greed and racism — that don’t necessarily make for a slick, diverting thriller. But Don Cheadle says what he loves about the movie is that weighty matters are “part and parcel” of the dangerous schemes that unfold in this engrossing crime saga set in 1954 Detroit and shot last year in the Motor City during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before filming, Director Steven Soderbergh consulted with experts like Larry Brilliant, a renowned epidemiologist and native Detroiter and Wayne State University medical school alum who had advised him on “Contagion,” the 2011 thriller about a deadly virus that eerily presaged the pandemic. The movie also hired Wayne State's Dr. Phillip Levy, who was involved in COVID-19 testing programs for Wayne Health, a 300-doctor group practice. Medical staffers from Wayne Health handled the regularly required testing for cast and crew members, using mobile testing units to reach various locations. To show his appreciation to Detroit, Soderbergh made a personal donation to Wayne Health of two new mobile labs. "It seems honestly like a really good way to contribute to the community, so that we weren’t just coming here and sort of extracting something without giving anything in return,” the director told the Free Press in November. 
News outlet logo for favicons/detroitnews.com.png

Wayne State University raises tuition for undergraduate, graduate students

Wayne State University's Board of Governors unanimously approved a tuition increase of 3.9% for both undergraduate and graduate students on Friday. The new tuition rate will result in a $15 increase per credit hour for lower-division undergraduates, officials said. The university also increased its commitment to financial aid, bringing total institutional support to almost $100 million. WSU board Chair Marilyn Kelly said as the governing body of the university, officials are keenly aware of the financial burdens many students face. "This is a decision not arrived at easily or without reservation," Kelly said in a statement. "We have committed the university to making its programs financially accessible to all, including those of limited means. We have not wavered from that commitment. We have provided financial programs to aid students." Wayne State will finalize its university budget in the fall, officials said. University officials say they remain hopeful the Michigan Legislature will increase appropriations to universities this year but is awaiting passage of the state budget. Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson said WSU is the only Michigan public university that has not had its budget restored to fiscal year 2011 levels after significant cuts were made to higher education that year. “No matter what the financial circumstances are, our priority remains the same,” Wilson said in a statement. “As stewards of the university, we will provide a high-quality education to as many students as possible, while continuing to feed the talent pipeline to ensure Michigan’s workforce and economy are strong in the years ahead.”