Author: Carolyn Pennington

Active Shooter on Campus: What Should You Do?

Last night’s mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif., may have you thinking about what you would do in a similar situation. UConn Police and law enforcement agencies across the country recommend escaping if you can, hiding if you can’t, and fighting only if you have to. Or to put it more simply: Run, hide, fight.

The UConn Police Department’s Safety Techniques and Awareness Resource Team (S.T.A.R.T.) offers programs that teach employees how to recognize the potential for violence, discuss realistic strategies during an active shooter threat, and help instill a survival mindset.

UConn Police Lieutenant Jason R. Hyland leads the Community Outreach Unit and says, not surprisingly, that following a mass shooting incident the number of requests for their programs increases. The Responding to an Active Theat: A Survival Mindset program is offered as a one or two hour presentation on a first-come, first-served basis. S.T.A.R.T typically presents around 60 of these free programs a year at UConn campuses throughout the state.

“Our educational programs lay a solid foundation to help employees and students increase their sense of safety and gives them a chance to think tactically if they find themselves in an active shooter situation,” explains Hyland.

During their “Responding to an Active Threat” presentation, S.T.A.R.T. officers discuss pre-attack indicators and reporting behaviors of concern, as well as the steps you should take in an active shooter situation.

Run: Have an escape route and plan in mind; leave your belongings behind; and keep your hands visible.

Hide: Hide in an area out of the shooter’s view; block entry to your hiding place and lock the doors; and silence your cell phone.

Fight: As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to incapacitate the shooter; act with physical aggression and improvise weapons.

Hyland says their initial presentation can be followed with a second session in which the officers do a tactical walk-through of the employees’ main work area and offer specific instructions on what best route for escape or places to hide.

“We know that a trained person experiences less stress in these situations,” says Hyland. “They can focus on strategies of escape and survival while others may panic and freeze in disbelief. Our program offers an in-depth look at the physiological and psychological effects of a lethal threat situation. We then discuss methods to overcome these natural reactions and increase our survival mindset.” Hyland also recommends visiting the UConn Office of Emergency Management website for additional information and downloadable content.

If your group or department is interested in hosting a program, complete the online request form and a S.T.A.R.T. officer will work out the details with you.

Making Strides 2018

Our Husky Heroes rocked it at the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event on Sunday, October 28. American Cancer Society patient navigator, Amber Tillinghast, tells us that there was an incredible team of 35 participants this year. They raised over $1200 and hosted a very successful survivor reception, in which they were able to mingle with many UConn Health breast cancer survivors. They joined the other 1500 walkers in the fight against breast cancer – one step at a time. Thank you to our participants and donors for their time, effort and support!

Keep Calm and Get Your Mammogram

National Mammography Day is October 19 and serves as a reminder to all women that the best defense is early detection. A screening mammogram looks for breast cancer in women with no symptoms. The goal is to catch the disease early, when it may be more treatable. Make sure you get your regular checkups.

Your co-workers throughout the UConn Health community ask you to join them in raising breast cancer awareness by wearing pink on Friday. Shout out to the UConn Health Internal Medicine sites in East and West Hartford for participating in the cancer center’s Community Breast Navigation Program this year! With their help and expertise, the grant funded outreach program was able to educate women on the importance of screening and provide seamless navigation to screening.

Looking at Us: Ellen ‘Bleeds Blue’ Benson, OR Nurse Manager

More than 11,000 surgeries are performed here every year from foot surgery to brain surgery which takes a lot of coordination and planning to make sure patients get the best care possible. A key reason our ORs run smoothly and efficiently is the dedication and tireless work of nurse manager Ellen Benson. She’s worked at UConn Health for the last 28 years. Ellen lives in Harwinton with her husband of 36 years. She has three grown children.


Ellen Benson, screen shot from video by Frank Barton and Ethan GiorgettiEllen Benson

Favorite book:
I was never much of a reader, but I fell in love with Edgar Allan Poe when I was a kid, weird little short stories, they were great for my attention span at the time

Favorite movie:
I love Harry Potter and Indiana Jones movies.

Favorite time of year:
I love the fall. The cool crisp air, the colors, the smells and the comfort foods (like apple crisp and ice cream). Halloween is one of my favorite “holidays.”

Favorite place to visit:
This is a toss- up. I love the beach and I also love to hike in the woods, no particular location. As long as my family is with me, I’m happy anywhere.

Famous person you’d most like to meet:
Colin Powell. I read his autobiography and was amazed at his life story, the places he has traveled, the work he did, the people that he knew. I would also have loved to have met and worked with Florence Nightingale – she is my hero!

Something about you today that your younger self would never believe:
That I would love my job even more today than I did when I first started and that I would be the manager of the OR.

Why did you become a nurse?
I went to a career fair when I was 18 years old and was introduced to the surgical technology profession. I grew up butchering chickens with my grandfather, so I thought – I can do that job! I worked for about a year full time and then realized I could do more, so my husband encouraged me to go to nursing school.

How did you end up being the OR nurse manager?
I worked for nearly 19 years from 3 to 11 p.m. as a staff nurse. That was an extraordinary opportunity because I learned so much. I worked with a small group who really helped each other and it was an awesome environment. Working evenings also gave me the opportunity to be home during the day with my children. It was the perfect work/life balance for us. When my youngest daughter was in high school, my husband said it was time to switch shifts. It just so happened that the assistant nurse manager position opened up. I had never thought about going into management but I thought that it might be a good move for me. I got the position and learned many new skills. When the manager position became available, a few people encouraged me to apply. Much to my surprise, I was hired for the position and have been the manager for almost five years now.

What has been a major milestone in your career?
I earned my bachelor’s degree about a year ago. That was a huge personal achievement! I was highly encouraged to complete my degree by nursing administration and they really supported me through the process. I enjoyed taking classes with the younger students who were fresh out of their associate degree programs. I have worked in the OR my whole life so it was great looking at nursing through their eyes. I ended up being a mentor to quite a few of them and I still stay in touch with them, so that was really a wonderful experience. My husband and children also helped me achieve this milestone, if it weren’t for their support, it would have never happened.

Why do you like working at UConn Health?
It’s just a wonderful place to work. We have this beautiful new hospital and we have great nurses, physicians and support staff to help us fulfill our mission of teaching and caring for the people of the state of Connecticut.

I love coming to work every day. I am proud to be a part of the UConn family.

I really do bleed blue!

Faculty Appointments and Promotions Fall 2018

The Academic Affairs Subcommittee of the Board of Directors during its September meeting approved the following School of Medicine and Dental Medicine faculty promotions and appointments:

School of Dental Medicine Promotions

Professor (Continuing Tenure)
Dr. Efthimia Ioannidou, Division of Periodontology
Dr. Rajesh Lalla, Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Diagnostic Sciences

Professor (In-Residence)
Dr. Yu-Hsiung Wang, Division of Pediatric Dentistry

Associate Professor (In-Residence)
Dr. Bina Katechia, Division of Pediatric Dentistry

School of Medicine Appointments

Professor – Affiliated
Dr. Mark D. Adams – (The Jackson Laboratory) – Genetics and Developmental Biology
Dr. Mark J. Alberts – (Hartford Hospital) – Neurology
Dr. Glenn Flores – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) – Pediatrics
Dr. Daniel Grow – (Center for Advanced Reproductive Services) – Obstetrics and Gynecology

Associate Professor – Tenure Track
Dr. William S. Shaw – Medicine

Associate Professor – Affiliated
Dr. Beth C. Natt – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center)

School of Medicine Promotions

Professor – with Award of Academic Tenure
Dr. Royce Mohan – Neuroscience

Professor – In-Residence
Dr. Qian Wu – Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Professor – Affiliated Institution
Dr. Karan M. Emerick – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) – Pediatrics

Clinical Professor – Community Faculty
Dr. Anthony G. Alessi – Neurology

Award of Academic Tenure
Dr. Annabelle Rodriguez-Oquendo – Cell Biology

Associate Professor – In-Residence
Dr. David B. Banach – Medicine
Dr. Stacey L. Brown – Community Medicine and Health Care
Dr. Ramaswamy M. Chidambaram – Genetics and Genome Sciences
Dr. Jessica M. Clement – Medicine
Dr. Thomas J. Devers – Medicine
Dr. Katalin Ferenczi – Dermatology
Dr. Alise Frallicciardi – Emergency Medicine
Dr. Karen M. Hook – Medicine
Dr. Juyong Lee – Medicine
Dr. Faryal S. Mirza – Medicine
Dr. Karen L. Steinberg – Psychiatry
Dr. Haleh Vaziri – Medicine
Dr. Siu-Pok Yee – Cell Biology

Associate Professor – with Award of Academic Tenure
Dr. Dmitry M. Korzhnev – Molecular Biology and Biophysics
Dr. Yi I. Wu – Genetics and Genome Sciences

Associate Professor – Affiliated Institution
Dr. Thyde Dumont-Mathieu – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) – Pediatrics
Dr. Alex B. Golden – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) – Pediatrics
Dr. Katherine R. Kavanagh – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) – Surgery
Dr. Kristan A. Pierz – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) – Orthopaedic Surgery
Dr. Wael N. Sayej – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) – Pediatrics
Dr. Adam M. Silverman – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) – Pediatrics
Dr. Christine M. Skurkis – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) – Pediatrics
Dr. Michael J. Soltis – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) – Pediatrics
Dr. Adam C. Steinberg – (Hartford Hospital) – Obstetrics and Gynecology

Associate Clinical Professor – Community Faculty
Dr. Seth M. Brown – Surgery
Dr. Jeffry L. Nestler – Medicine
Dr. Belachew Tessema – Surgery

Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. Graduate Takes Alternative Career Path

John Wizeman, Ph.D.

UConn graduates in biomedical sciences are thinking outside of the academic/tenure track box and considering alternative career paths. Ph.D.s are finding unique ways to apply their scientific skills in government, pharma, industry, business, as well as law. Brittany Knight, Biomedical Sciences graduate student, interviewed recent graduate John Wizeman, Ph.D., about his choice to pursue intellectual property law.

Patent law is an area of the greater field of intellectual property law (IP), which also includes trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Patents provide exclusivity for inventors which can allow individuals to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create while encouraging creativity and innovation for public interest. In the last few years, patents in the biomedical sciences have earned a lot of attention. One example is the long-standing dispute over the IP rights to the revolutionary gene-editing technology known as CRISPR.

Wizeman initially learned about careers in intellectual property during a seminar coordinated by the graduate school. Cambria Alpha-Cobb, a technical specialist from Dilworth IP in Trumbull,  came to UConn and discussed the field. Wizemen says he would not have known about this potential career avenue without UConn setting up the seminars.

Anthony Sabatelli (Yale Ph.D. 1984, chemistry) a firm partner at Dilworth IP, created the internship program in 2014 to provide “meaningful real-world experiences” for Ph.D. students considering non-academic careers. The position at the firm is referred to as a Technology Specialist which allows interns to research the technical and legal aspects of IP-related cases, as well as publish articles on Dilworth’s IP online blog. Under the supervision of Sabatelli,  Wizeman published two articles on Dilworth IP’s blog, one of which was picked up by “Patent Docs” – a patent law weblog for attorneys.

Since 2014, several Yale alumni have utilized the internship to pursue law degrees, technology specialist positions in law firms in the Boston-area, as well as to attend law school in New York City.  One student even used the position to eventually transition to a career in scientific publishing.

“Based on connections with graduate students at both UConn and Yale, we decided to run an experiment at Dilworth IP to bring in a graduate student in the latter phase of their Ph.D. program – either in chemistry or one of the life sciences – to give them an opportunity to see what a career in patent law entails,” said Sabetelli.  “In structuring the program, we realized for it to be mutually beneficial for both the student and Dilworth IP, it would have to be more than just a mere shadowing opportunity. We would have to provide the student with actual projects and provide them with opportunities to interact with other colleagues in the firm and even, as appropriate, with clients. The opportunity that we came up with is one of Technology Specialist where the student can research both the technical and legal aspects of various intellectual property-related projects in our law firm.  As seen from the track record of the students coming through our program, it has given them a meaningful leg up making them highly competitive in the job market.”

In the Biomedical Sciences program, Wizeman completed his doctoral work in the lab of Royce Mohan in the Department of Neuroscience. He studied a form of vision loss that is prevalent in older individuals, called age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  “UConn was helpful in not only exposing me to this path, but to prepare me as well,” said Wizeman. “The training I received in the neuroscience department helped keep me knowledgeable about a wide range of scientific disciplines, as well as the newest and most groundbreaking research. I’m excited to bring this training to my new position.”

Students in graduate programs, such as those in the biomedical sciences, develop a broad skill set including comprehensive understanding of subject matter, oral and written communication, time management, project management, data analysis, and critical thinking. These skills, apart from wet lab or bench science techniques, are organic products of intellectual rigor and scientific discovery.

Wizeman adds, “This internship has given me an opportunity to work on my writing as well as introduce me to the IP field. Under Anthony Sabatelli’s guidance, I have been able to write several articles for the Dilworth blog. This experience helped me understand the field and find a position as a Technical Specialist for Lathrop and Gage, where I will begin an IP career in the coming weeks.”

“The program has truly been a win-win for both the students and Dilworth IP,” said Sabatelli. “The students have had a great learning experience while we have benefited from their help on numerous projects. Students like John that are taking the opportunity to learn about patent law, as well as other fields, are helping to strengthen the collaboration across universities and businesses such as UConn, Yale University, and Dilworth IP, which has been shown to be mutually beneficial.”

Spotlight on Services: Day in the Life of a Dispatcher

Buildings and Grounds Patrol Officer Kevin Cabelus answers a call. (Kristin Wallace/UConn Health Photo)
Buildings and Grounds Patrol Officer Kevin Cabelus answers a call. (Kristin Wallace/UConn Health)

Our UConn Health dispatchers answer hundreds of calls each day – some of them routine – such as vehicle jumpstarts or door unlocks – others are a matter of life and death. One recent incident called special attention to the great work they do when Buildings and Grounds Patrol Officer Kevin Cabelus kept a distraught, suicidal former patient on the phone talking while dispatcher Stephen Ferraro figured out his identity and location. They contacted local police who rushed to the man’s home and found him clinging to life. Their fast action is credited with saving the man’s life.

Buildings and Grounds Patrol Officer Kevin Cabelus answers a call.
Buildings and Grounds Patrol Officer Kevin Cabelus and dispatcher Stephen Ferraro. (Kristin Wallace/UConn Health)

The Pulse wanted to learn more about our dispatch services here at UConn Health so we asked Stephen and Kevin to answer a few questions about the important service they provide.

How many dispatchers work at UConn Health?
UConn Health currently has five full-time dispatchers. There are 10 Buildings and Grounds Patrol Officers (BGPO) in the department who are also trained in dispatch to fill in absences on any shift as needed. There is always someone on duty – whether it is a dispatcher or a BGPO – our emergency and routine lines are always monitored by trained staff on campus.

What kind of training does it require?
The full-time dispatchers are sent to the same training course that municipalities send their dispatchers. We also take a course to be certified in COLLECT which is the Connecticut database for accessing everything from driver and license plate information, to stolen cars and wanted or missing persons nationwide. Additionally, dispatchers have specialized training opportunities in active shooter, crisis intervention, self-defense, and radiation. We are also CPR certified.

What types of calls do you receive?
Typical emergencies, such as medical/injury calls, car accidents, thefts, and personnel disputes and routine calls, such as people needing directions or escorts, vandalism, door unlocks, vehicle jumpstarts, wildlife reports, or just anything that people need to know and don’t know who else to ask. Though we strive to help everyone as soon as they call, you may be put on hold for an answer to your routine question when something of an emergency nature is on the other line. We appreciate your patience!

What is the most common call you receive?
This will vary by shift, but because I work at night we do a lot of unlocks in the building and escorts for employees after shuttle service stops. We also have a lot of calls for patients who are disruptive or combative. I send BGPO’s and police officers there to mitigate and isolate these threats and keep staff and the other patients safe and comfortable.

How is it different working here versus a town or city police dispatch?
Basically all the same things that occur in a town can and do occur here on campus at some point. The biggest technical difference is that we do not answer 911. While we have our in-house emergency line, only so many 911 centers are authorized by the state. Since we’re located in Farmington, 911 calls go there initially. If a call is pertaining to our campus, it will be transferred back to us when necessary. In terms of call handling, a big difference is that we are customer service oriented. Whether it’s a call from an employee or one of our many patients and visitors – we are here for everyone, to keep them safe and do what we can to help while they learn, teach, work, heal, grieve, or celebrate life.

Why did you want to become a dispatcher?
Being a dispatcher is a great way to help people, which I enjoy being able to do as a career. What led me to this position was a background in volunteer firefighting, giving me experience on the other side of the radio. I had already worked at UConn Health in Nursing Transportation so when this position became available I was very eager to jump at the opportunity to do something I love at a place I’d grown to love as well.

Kevin: I chose public service because I knew at a young age this is what I wanted to do. There are a lot of police officers in my family so it felt natural to get my college degree in criminal justice. Helping people is what I enjoy and there’s no better way to do that than with this career. When you go into any type of law enforcement or public service you build a bond with co-workers that is very strong because you depend on each other every day. For example, the call that Steve and I had, we’ve worked together for a little over 3 years now so when that call came in we knew what the other person needed to make that call successful. When you work with people like Steve and you mesh well together, it makes your shift and career a lot easier.

Any calls that really stand out for you and the dept.?
Collectively all of our dispatchers do great work handling serious calls, they’ve had accidents, they’ve had casualties, they’ve had people running around with weapons or being aggressive on drugs, they’ve had fires and gas leaks… It’s our job as dispatchers to quickly bring about resolution and minimize the impact these incidents have on those involved and the rest of the important things that go on here at UConn Health. Doing so, alongside our excellent team of firefighters, paramedics, police officers and BGPO’s, has been as much of an honor as it has been working with the other dispatchers here at UConn Health.

Graduate Students Shine at 35th Annual Graduate Student Research Day

Biomedical Science Program Service Award for Mentorship and 3rd place poster presentation winner.

By Stephanie Rauch, Biomedical Science Program Coordinator

Tucked away in their labs, researching and studying, Biomedical Science graduate students on the UConn Health campus can be easily overlooked. But at the 35th Annual Graduate Student Research Day held on June 26, graduate students from the PhD program, as well as combined degree programs and other graduate degrees across the campus, had a chance to bring their hard work out into the light, celebrating their research achievements and inspiring each other to continue working to discover the next pieces of complex biomedical puzzles.

The day-long event included poster and oral presentations by graduate students, a scientific talk by 2017-18 Lepow award winning student Ashley Russo (Immunology AoC, Rathinam Lab), and a keynote address by invited speaker Christine M. Disteche, Ph.D., director of the University of Washington Regional Cytogenetics Laboratory, professor of pathology, University of Washington. She spent the day interacting with over 30 students during their presentations in the Academic Rotunda before her own talk, “3D Structure of the Inactive X Chromosome and Role in Sex Differences.

2017-18 Lepow Award winner Ashley Russo.

“As graduate students at UConn Health, we are the basic science behind our mission of “the power of possible,” said third-year neuroscience student and Leadership Award winner Robert Pijewski.  “A day such as Graduate Student Research Day really highlights what the graduate program at UConn Health is all about. The student’s passion, creativity, and hard-work was truly showcased in what was an informative event.”

The day ended with an awards ceremony recognizing a wide variety of students for their achievements throughout the year.

Henderson Memorial Prize for Outstanding PhD Thesis in Biomedical Science: Dr. James Fink, Neuroscience AoC, Levine Lab

Lepow Award for Outstanding Rising Fourth Year Biomedical Science PhD Student: Andrea Wilderman, Genetics and Developmental Biology AoC, Cotney Lab

Biomedical Science Program Service Award for Mentorship: (tie) Dipika Gupta, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry AoC, Heinen Lab and Brittany Knight, Neuroscience AoC, Baumbauer Lab.

Biomedical Science Program Service Award for Leadership:
Robert Pijewski, Neuroscience AoC, Crocker Lab

Raisz Award for Excellence in Musculoskeletal Research: Henry Hrdlicka, Skeletal Biology and Regeneration AoC, Delany Lab

Oral Presentation Award: Moriah Gildart, Cell Biology AoC, Dodge-Kafka Lab

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research Mentoring winner Dr. Laurinda Jaffe (center) with Associate Dean of The Graduate School, Dr. Barbara Kream (L) and Dean of the School of Medicine, Dr. Bruce Liang.

Poster Presentation Awards:
1st Place:
Valentina Baena, Cell Biology AoC, Terasaki Lab
2nd Place:
Gabrielle Valles, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry AoC, Bezsonova Lab
3rd Place (Tie):
Dipika Gupta, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry AoC, Heinen Lab
Katherine DiScipio, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry AoC, Weller Lab

In addition, two faculty awards were announced, including the inaugural Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research Mentoring presented by the Dean of the School of Medicine, Dr. Bruce Liang.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research Mentoring: Dr. Laurinda Jaffe, Cell Biology AoC

Osborn Award for Excellence in Biomedical Science Graduate Teaching: Dr. Phillip Smith, Neuroscience AoC

In Memorium: Professor of Medicine Nancy Petry

Nancy Petry, Ph.D., passed away on July 17 from breast cancer. She was 49.

It is with profound sadness that I inform you that my dear wife, Nancy M. Petry, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine in the Calhoun Cardiology Center and Editor-in-Chief of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, died on Tuesday, July 17, 2018 from breast cancer. She was 49 years old.

Nancy joined the faculty of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in 1996 after receiving her Ph.D. from Harvard University and completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Vermont School of Medicine in clinical addiction research.  She became an academic superstar at UConn School of Medicine as she developed unique methodologies to treat addictive disorders with a treatment known as contingency management. She received 2 accelerated promotions and after only 6 years on our faculty was the youngest full professor with tenure in the history of the School at age 34. Nancy was internationally known for her work in behavioral treatments and impulsivity disorders. During her career at UConn she garnered over $40 million in funding as a principal investigator from the National Institutes of Health, wrote and published over 300 original articles and single-handedly wrote a number of books in the areas of pathological gambling, contingency management and internet gaming disorders. Nancy was very proud that her proven methods to treat addiction disorders from her NIH trials were successfully disseminated to the Veteran’s Administration Medical Centers across the USA and over a multi-year period showed large successes of contingency management in real world practice. She always told me that it was one of the largest translational demonstration projects in the field of experimental psychology.

Despite her enormous successes during her career, Nancy was very modest and willing to mentor and help others in their careers. She trained a large number of post-doctoral fellows during her 22 years on the faculty, many of whom became successful faculty members at academic institutions around the country.

On a very personal note, Nancy was a loving wife, my best friend, and a wonderful mother to our two young children Hannah and Noah. They will truly miss growing up without her. When Hannah developed type 1 diabetes at the age of 1, Nancy became a ‘clinical expert’ in her management while maintaining a busy academic career. Hence, in lieu of any material items of any kind to our family in these trying times, please send donations in Nancy’s honor to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, 20 Batterson Park Road, #302, Farmington, Connecticut 06032.

William B. White, M.D.
Professor of Medicine