At the March 12 meeting of the Wayne State University Board of Governors, three Wayne State community members and a student organization were recognized for exhibiting “Profiles in Warrior Strong” over the last year. Their actions were highlighted to acknowledge that positive accomplishments continued throughout the university community despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Interim Provost Laurie Lauzon Clabo introduced the recipients during the online meeting and asked them to share their experiences.
Charisse Ormanian, associate director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), was recognized for her leadership in transitioning CAPS to provide its increasingly critical services remotely. This included implementing new infrastructure, developing new policies and procedures, and assisting CAPS staff with the transition and training. “Charisse is always motivated by her care for WSU students,” her nominator wrote. “Her organizational brilliance has made the transition to remote seamless. Charisse is CAPS MVP.”
During the meeting, Ormanian thanked her team and other university departments for allowing for the smooth transition to telemental health services.
“I’ve been a part of Wayne State since 1998, first as a student and then, beginning in 2002, as an employee. [With] the experiences that I’ve had in this community, I tease that I’m part of a cult because the people that I encounter and the passion that they have for Wayne State and the community of Detroit is just so infectious. I love that we can all work together to make change,” said Ormanian.
Third-year cancer biology Ph.D. student Julio Pimentel’s research is on triple-negative breast cancer, a subtype of breast cancer with a poor prognosis. He has been going to campus daily during the pandemic to keep research moving on innovative strategies to treat this aggressive cancer.
Pimentel’s efforts have resulted in a first author publication and selection to present an oral presentation at the 2020 National Diversity in STEM Conference, conducted by the Society of Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in the Sciences. In addition, he gave a virtual presentation to minority high school students interested in STEM in the FocuSSTEM NextGen program, was nominated as a Latino role model who’s shaping the world by the Latino Community Stage, and was selected as the student representative of the School of Medicine’s cancer biology program.
As the son of immigrants and a first-generation Hispanic student, Pimentel is using the recognition he has received from presenting his findings to pay it forward.
“I was able to represent our program and our institution. I’ve also met with a lot of students that come from the same background as me who are interested in pursuing careers in cancer research,” said Pimentel. “With a lot of issues going on socioeconomically, it’s always good to have a role model who can show that it might be difficult, but it is possible.”
Physics Professor Nausheen Shah typically studies theoretical high-energy particle physics, focusing on the Higgs Boson and dark matter. However, inspired by family and friends in the health care industry as well as a concern about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), she designed and constructed a prototype for a wearable, inexpensive and reusable air disinfection device called the Personal Ultraviolet Respiratory Germ Eliminating Machine (PUR-GEM). Shah has already submitted two papers about the device and filed for a provisional patent.
“I really hope it will be something that will be helpful in the future, not just the pandemic,” said Shah. “If nothing else, the pandemic has brought attention to the need for air hygiene.”
Also recognized was Replenish Detroit, a student organization founded in early 2020 to increase Detroit residents’ access to affordable water, sanitation supplies and hygiene education. In just one year, it has raised and donated more than $5,000 worth of hygiene and sanitary supplies including bleach, soap, children's diapers and sanitary pads. The group has also raised money to help pay water bills for struggling families, hosted interactive hand hygiene workshops with elementary school children and advocated for an end to water shutoffs in Detroit.
“We are so honored and humbled to receive this Profiles in Warrior Strong award today,” said Shanmin Sultana, a junior majoring in sociology and the president and co-founder of Replenish Detroit.
The winners, who will receive certificates to commemorate their recognition, were selected out of more than 30 nominations by a committee consisting of a cross section of people across campus. The selection committee included Cleon Cleaver, Christine Huang, Fareed Shalhout, Jennifer Hart, Charity Cole and Tejas Karun.
The next round of Profiles in Warrior Strong recognition will be held at the June 25 BOG meeting. Nominations will re-open in June.