In Awe of Respiratory Therapists

“I now understand they are an absolute integral part of the health care team, and a truly amazing resource.”

Respiratory therapists group portrait
UConn Health respiratory therapists include (from left): Vanessa Woodruff, Samantha Marino, Zenaida Palma, Randy Luke, Stephanie Gutierrez, Stacy Pacheco, Sara Drouin and Tarjeet Bharara. (Photo provided by Sandy Thibodeau)

As UConn Health observes Respiratory Care Week, Oct. 23-29, here is a testimonial from a medical student that was part of a recent written assignment. Students were asked to reflect on their observations of the respiratory therapists’ experience, including the RTs’ interactions with the health care team and the patients’ experiences.

My main takeaway is respiratory therapists are really amazing health professions that I have never really considered until now.

I had always heard about “RTs” during the COVID pandemic especially, but I never thought about what that might entail. I thought that respiratory management was always managed between the pulmonologist and nurses, such that orders for oxygen and/or breathing apparatuses by the pulmonologist were implemented by the nursing team, and more advanced ventilation such as intubation and tracheostomies were performed by the pulmonologists.

Respiratory therapists small group portrait
UConn Health respiratory therapists include (from left): Eunice Albertinie, Vanessa Woodruff, and Damaris Rivera. (Photo provided by Sandy Thibodeau)

I was blown away by how much our RT does… She shared a story of when a patient came in and with her 15-plus years of experience, immediately knew that this patient needed a BIPAP. However, the resident said it was not needed yet. Rather than argue, the RT simply went to grab and set the BIPAP up, but did not place it. Finally, when the resident said BIPAP was necessary, it was all ready to go. The RT shared that had she waited for the resident’s orders for the BIPAP, there would have been a delay in care because of the time it takes to get the BIPAP from the floor and set it up. I thought this was such an incredible story to hear, because it showed me that even though doctors technically go to school for a longer period of time, we need to respect these professionals that have extensive experience in the field and have trained specifically to help patients breathe. Our RT was sharing about all of the intricacies of O2 and CO2 balance, with extensive knowledge about microbes such as pseudomonas that cause respiratory infections.

In our curriculum, we have pretty much covered all of the material surrounding respiratory infections and V/Q mismatch and gradients and things like that, and I still feel like I barely know these things – and a lot of my classmates struggle with this material as well. I just think it’s absolutely amazing how RTs know pulmonary inside and out. Like I genuinely don’t understand what pulmonologists do that RTs don’t. I know it was very condescending of me to not know how knowledgeable RTs were before, but I am fortunate to have had the experience to learn.

Respiratory therapists group portrait
UConn Health respiratory therapists include (from left): Samantha Marino, Vanessa Woodruff, Marzena Mocarski, Sara Drouin, Tarjeet Bharara, Zenaida Palma, Stephanie Guitierrez, Stacy Pacheco, and Sandy Thibodeau. (Photo provided by Sandy Thibodeau)

Another take away was that RTs are super passionate, caring, hard-working health professionals. People who require respiratory therapy are extremely sick, and it requires extreme care and empathy to be able to take care of patients in such acute condition. Our RT was telling us about how much they worked during the pandemic and would not leave the floor for insane periods of time. She told us about how they all stayed over time every single day. She even talked about how she needed to buy nice sneakers because of how much they run around. And above all, despite working so much, she still was so passionate about what she does, even saying she will stay late and set extra things up because she loves seeing the relief of patients when they are finally able to breathe.

Overall, I never really thought about RTs, but I now understand they are an absolute integral part of the health care team, and a truly amazing resource. The way in which you breathe really guides how anxious/distressed you might feel, and as RTs are solely focused on making sure patients can breathe comfortably, they are truly at the center of patient care.

New Leadership Roles for Dr. Lynn Kosowicz

The following announcement is from UConn Health leadership:

Lynn Kosowicz portrait, no white coat
Dr. Lynn Kosowicz is interim chair of the UConn School of Medicine Department of Medicine and interim chief of medical services. (Photo by Tina Encarnacion)

We are pleased to announce that Lynn Kosowicz, M.D., FACP, has accepted the appointment as Interim Chair of Department of Medicine and Interim Chief of Medical Services. Dr. Kosowicz, currently the director of the Clinical Skills Assessment Program, completed medical school, internal medicine residency and a year as chief medical resident at UConn, and then joined the faculty in the Department of Medicine in 1991. A dedicated and respected primary care internist, Dr. Kosowicz has focused her academic contributions on improving patient care by enhancing the clinical skills of learners and practitioners through simulation, mentorship, and research. Examples of grant-funded research include the design of a novel approach to teaching physical examination skills that has been disseminated to many institutions across the nation, and an AMA-sponsored project that prioritizes social determinants of health to improve chronic disease prevention and management. Dr. Kosowicz has been recognized within the institution by appointment to the Academic Affairs Subcommittee of the Board of Directors, as well as the Education Council, Faculty Review Board, and LCME self-study task forces and steering committees. Dr. Kosowicz has received several awards, including the NEGEA/AAMC Distinguished Service & Leadership Award; the Thornton Award, Connecticut Chapter of American College of Physicians, in recognition of outstanding contributions to medical education; and the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award. Internationally, she was invited to train and mentor faculty at the Universidad de Chile Escuela Medicina as they developed a successful interprofessional Clinical Skills center in Santiago.

Dr. Kosowicz’s family is a multigenerational UConn Health family. Her father introduced her to UConn in 1968 when he joined the faculty of the new School of Dental Medicine. Three of her four daughters are health care professionals – one a gastroenterologist, who graduated from UConn’s School of Medicine, and two are nurses, one of whom graduated from UConn’s School of Nursing.

Please welcome and support Dr. Kosowicz in her new roles.

Bruce T. Liang, M.D.
Dean, School of Medicine

Andrew Agwunobi M.D., MBA
CEO UConn Health and EVP for Health Affairs



UConn Medical School 2020 Senior Awards

Awards ceremony program coverThe UConn School of Medicine Class of 2020 senior awards ceremony was an online affair, May 7. Following are this year’s honorees:

Student Awards

New England Pediatric Society Awards — Pediatrics
Brooke Schuman and Kristina Wagner

The Department of Pediatrics Chair Award For Innovation in Pediatric Education—Pediatrics
Rashmi Pashankar

Linda Ives Award — Pediatrics
Taylor Jackvony

The Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Community Service Award — Pediatrics
Kelly Nedorostek

Internal Medicine Award
Bryan Ferrigno

Carl F. Hinz, Jr. Award—For Excellence in Scholars in Medicine
Michelle Duong

CT Chapter—American College of Physicians Award
Sonali Rodrigues

CT Academy of Family Physicians Award — Family Medicine
Miryam Wilson

Dr. David and Arthur Schuman Award — Family Medicine
Kathryn Topalis

CT Chapter of American College of Surgeons Award
Rebecca Calafiore

Society of Academic Emergency Medicine Award
Samuel Southgate

The Ramanlal and Kanchan Bulsara Fellowship Award
Nicholas Bellas

James F.X. Egan Medical Student Award— OB/GYN Award
Jennifer Park

American Academy of Neurology Award
Stephanie Vu

Excellence in Psychiatry Award
Maschal Mohiuddin

James H. Foster, M.D. — Teaching Awards
Salem Harry-Hernandez and Jennifer Lawson

Jan Wilms, M.D. & Carol Pfeiffer, Ph.D. Awards for Excellence in Clinical Skills
Stephanie Vu and Kristina Wagner

Health Career Opportunity Programs—Bridge Mentoring Awards
Nia Harris and Aloys Nsereko

School of Medicine Awards for Excellence in a Specific Discipline
Dylan Buller for Urology and Sonny Caplash for Ophthalmology

School of Medicine Awards for Overall Academic Excellence
Emily Isch, Divya Iyer, Anzhela Moskalik and Colin Pavano

School of Medicine Professionalism Awards
Jonathan Caranfa and Alice DiFrancesco

J.E.C. Walker, M.D. Medicine and Society Awards
Agata Harabasz for Primary Care and Angela Quental for Public Health

Lyman Stowe Award — School of Medicine
Miryam Wilson

UConn’s 2020 Outstanding Senior Women Academic Achievement Awards
Antea DeMarsilis

Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award
Shyam Desai

University of Connecticut Health Center Auxiliary Award
Madeline DeWane

Student Affairs Award
Adam Bartholomeo

Dean’s Award for Overall Academic Achievement
Antea DeMarsilis

Faculty Awards

South Park Inn Clinic
Dr. Jonathan Pendleton

Kaiser-Permanente Teaching Award
Dr. Michael Baldwin

Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award
Dr. Kirsten Ek

Outstanding Outpatient Clinical Preceptor (Voted on by the Class of 2021)
Dr. Michael Baldwin

Outstanding Inpatient Clinical Preceptor (Voted on by the Class of 2021)
Dr. Sean Kandel

Outstanding Educator (Voted on by the Class of 2021)
Dr. Michael Baldwin

New Award Honors Dr. Richard Simon

The Dr. Richard Simon Excellence in Clinical Neurosciences Award will be given annually to celebrate Dr. Richard Simon’s distinguished career at UConn Health and his pioneering contributions to medicine. The award will be given to a clinician, staff member, or student who exemplifies excellence in any area of the neurosciences at UConn Health. The awardee will be chosen in the Spring by a selection committee lead by Dr. Hilary Onyiuke following a call for nominations.

Dr. Richard Simon portrait
Dr. Richard Simon, UConn Health medical chief of staff (Photo by Janine Gelineau)

Richard Simon was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His father was a neurologist/psychiatrist. Dr. Simon graduated from Stanford University, class of 1965 and from St. Louis University School of Medicine class of 1970 and a Masters in Mathematics in 1988. He trained in General Surgery and Neurosurgery at the University of Colorado, completing his neurosurgical residency in June 1976.

Dr. Simon has spent his entire postgraduate career at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine where he is now Professor of Surgery (Neurosurgery). Formerly, he was Chief of the Division of Neurosurgery and Director of the Department of Neurosurgery at Hartford Hospital and the Program Director for the University of Connecticut/Hartford Hospital Neurosurgical Training Program.

An endowed fund has been established at the UConn Foundation to receive gifts from those who wish to honor Dr. Simon and award excellence in the neurosciences at UConn Health. It was launched by generous gifts from Dr. Simon’s colleagues and former students.

Anyone wishing to contribute may do so at or by contacting Peter Lamothe, Associate VP for Development, Health Sciences at the UConn Foundation, or 860-679-4962

“Our vision is for UConn to be a global center for excellence in neurosurgery in the context of the world class care that is already being provided at UConn Health. Dr. Simon has dedicated over 40 years to UConn Health. I can think of no greater honor for him than the knowledge that this award had been established by his colleagues, friends and former students whose careers he helped to launch.”

—Ketan Bulsara, M.D., MBA
   Chief, Division of Neurosurgery, UConn Health

UConn Medical Trainees Shine at Family Medicine Research Day

Katherine Spiegel presenting poster
UConn medical student Katherine Spiegel discusses her poster presentation, “Biomarker for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo: A prospective study of otolin-1 in serum,” at the Connecticut Academy of Family Physicians research day Oct. 17, 2019. (Photo provided by Monty Douglas)

Congratulations to the UConn medical students and residents who were recognized for their poster presentations at the Connecticut Academy of Family Physicians research day earlier this month:

Dr. Kristine Faulknham, family medicine resident: “Increasing influenza and pneumococcal vaccination rates in the outpatient setting”

Dr. Jessica Perez, family medicine resident: “Increasing performance and reporting of diabetic foot and eye exams”

Elisa Gonzalez Cuevas, medical student: “Anxiety, neuroticism and late-life depression”

Christian Schaufler, medical student: “The effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy on apnea of prematurity”

Katherine Spiegel, medical student: “Biomarker for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo: A prospective study of otolin-1 in serum”

Amisha Dave, medical student: “Automated extraction of pain symptoms: A natural language approach using electronic health records”

Faculty Appointments, Promotions Fall 2019

The Academic Affairs Subcommittee of the Board of Directors has approved the following new faculty promotions and appointments for the Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine:

School of Dental Medicine Promotions

(Photo by Jeanine Gelineau)

Professor In-Residence

  • Dr. Steven Lepowsky – General Dentistry

Associate Professor with Tenure

  • Dr. Aditya Tadinada – Oral and Maxillofacial Diagnostic Sciences

Associate Professor In-Residence

  • Dr. Takanori Sobue Oral Health and Diagnostic Sciences

School of Medicine Appointments

Professor – In Residence

  • Dr. Kwame S. Amankwah – Surgery
  • Dr. Raymond A. Dionne – Cell Biology

Associate Professor – Affiliated Institution

  • Dr. Mark Marieb – (Hartford Hospital) – Medicine

School of Medicine Promotions

Professor – In Residence

  • Anton M. Alerte – Pediatrics
  • Steven V. Angus – Medicine
  • Raymond J. Foley – Medicine

Professor – Tenure Track

  • Kimberly L. Dodge-Kafka – Cell Biology

Professor – Affiliated Institution

  • Christine M. Finck – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) – Surgery

Clinical Professor – Community Faculty

  • Charles L. Castiglione – Surgery
  • Joseph H. McIsaac, III – Anesthesiology
  • Thomas C. Mort – Anesthesiology

Associate Professor w/award of Academic Tenure

  • Lisa C. Barry – Psychiatry

Associate Professor – In Residence

  • Laurie C. Caines – Medicine
  • Justin J. Finch – Dermatology
  • Jennifer M.P. Kanaan – Medicine
  • Jun Lu – Dermatology
  • Pooja Luthra – Medicine
  • Kenia Mansilla-Rivera – Family Medicine
  • Wendy A. Miller – Medicine
  • Michael J. Payette – Dermatology
  • Christine Thatcher – Family Medicine
  • Kristina F. Zdanys – Psychiatry

Associate Professor – Affiliated Institution

  • Elizabeth A. Deckers – (Hartford Hospital) – Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Lawrence Engmann – (Center for Advanced Reproductive Services) – Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Annmarie Golioto – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) – Pediatrics
  • Louisa Kalsner – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) – Pediatrics
  • Lisa B. Namerow – (Hartford Hospital) – Psychiatry
  • Avinash Prasad – (Hartford Hospital) – Neurology
  • Stephanie E. Rosener – (Middlesex Hospital) – Family Medicine
  • Melissa Santos – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) – Pediatrics
  • Erica A. Schuyler – (Hartford Hospital) – Neurology
  • Shailendra Upadhyay – (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) – Pediatrics

Associate Clinical Professor – Community Faculty

  • Sivasenthil Arumugam – Anesthesiology
  • Melanie S. Collins – Pediatrics
  • Thomas J. Martin – Anesthesiology
  • Dhamodaran Palaniappan – Anesthesiology

One Year of Wellness

UConn Health Wellness Center One Year Anniversary
UConn Health Wellness Center One Year Anniversary. November 1, 2018. (Kristin Wallace/UConn Health Photo)

The UConn Health Wellness Center is celebrating its first year of operation, a year that saw enrollment shatter initial expectations.

More than 800 faculty, staff and students have signed up to be members of the Wellness Center, located on the main floor of the academic building, former location of the Friend’s Lecture Hall (LM034).

“We were projecting 500 members to start,” says Lisa DeToma, the administrative program coordinator who oversees the Wellness Center. “We offered three classes a week when we first opened, and now we have more than doubled the weekly class offerings.”

Regular classes include qi gong, yoga, and tai chi. Themed programs such as the “stair and step challenge” are also available.

Dr. Andy fits in a chair massage during the Wellness Center’s first anniversary celebration. (Kristin Wallace/UConn Health Photo)

Today the wellness center marks its first-year success with a full day of events, including chair massages, “Ask the Dietitian,” gifts for all members, healthy snacks, nutrition information, music, and drawings.

“I have been going to our gym since the opening and my life has improved for the better in so many ways,” says Rob Gottlieb, an environmental health and safety specialist. “My stress level is down, my cholesterol and blood pressure are down, and I am feeling better about myself. I love our gym and hope to maintain an active membership. I hope it flourishes and that it is properly maintained because it offers such a valuable service to its employees – a healthy lifestyle!”

Other plans for future programs include self-defense, total body conditioning, mindfulness meditation, and possibly spin classes.

The UConn Health Wellness Center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s accessible by ID badge and offers cardio machines, free weights, resistance machines, locker rooms with showers, and rooms for fitness classes. Registration forms are available on the Membership page.

Congressional Visit to UConn School of Dental Medicine

Rep. Joe Courtney with UConn ASDA members (from left) Cameron Christiansen, Shiyuan Mao, Marina Zoghbi, Taleen Kalajian, Jessica Rudman, Mariamma Chaluparambil, and Eric Ress at a visit to the UConn School of Dental Medicine. (Photo by Andrea Keilty)

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney recently came to UConn Health to meet with UConn dental student members of the American Student Dental Association (ASDA).

“He came to meet with us as ASDA aims to discuss legislative issues that pertain to us as current students and future health care providers,” says Taleen Kalajian, a second-year dental student and UConn ASDA delegate. “We wanted to gain insight into what is currently being done at the Congressional level in order to pass different bills and raise awareness about current issues that have the potential to impact our education and future.”

Dental student Jessica Rudman addresses Rep. Joe Courtney during the congressman’s visit to the UConn School of Dental Medicine. (Photo by Taijah Anderson)

Chief among those issues is student debt. By some estimates the average American dental student graduates with nearly $300,000 in debt. Courtney, a senior member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, discussed the Aim Higher Act, which his committee introduced in July. It’s a reauthorization of previous legislation that would provide students with a chance to earn a debt-free degree.

“One pillar of the Aim Higher Act is to protect and expand public service loan forgiveness programs,” says classmate Marina Zoghbi, a UConn ASDA legislative co-chair. “The Aim Higher Act also allows students to refinance high-interest loans to lower rates. I really appreciated that he is committed to advocating for students pursuing higher education.”

The congressman held a roundtable with seven members of UConn’s ASDA chapter: Zoghbi, Kalajian, Jessica Rudman, Mariamma Chaluparamabil, Eric Ress, Shiyuan Mao, and Cameron Christiansen. They met for about 30 minutes in the dental admissions office following a tour of the renovated dental care center and the simulation lab Oct. 18. Other topics of discussion included access to care and the opioid epidemic.

Chaluparamabil, the chapter’s president, and Rudman, a legislative delegate, had invited Courtney to visit during an ADA lobbying engagement in Washington, D.C., in the spring. Because of scheduling conflicts, it took several months to orchestrate.

“He’s very down-to-earth, really listens to problems, and you really feel like he’s listening to you,” Rudman says. “It can be nerve-wracking when you’re meeting someone like this, but he makes you feel at ease and able to talk about the issues that are important to you. It really helped us be comfortable.”

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

UConn Health Researchers Brief National MS Society

Students and faculty studying multiple sclerosis at UConn Health recently shared their findings with representatives from the National MS Society. (Photo provided by Brittany Knight)
Students and faculty studying multiple sclerosis at UConn Health recently shared their findings with representatives from the National MS Society, from left: David Martinelli, Cory Willis, Nickolas Wasko, Stephen Crocker, Robert Pijewski, Laura Hoch (NMSS Connecticut chapter), Alexandra Nicaise, Madeleine Youngstrom, Joyshree Biswas, Dina Berlyn (patient advocate), Laura Roberts (patient advocate), and Andrew Tang. (Photo provided by Brittany Knight)

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is up to date on UConn Health’s MS research following a recent visit with biomedical students and faculty. One of the students, Brittany Knight, shares her account of the meeting.

Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the Neuroscience and Immunology departments used a variety of models and techniques to identify molecules that can improve myelination and ultimately provide therapies for those diagnosed with MS.

Myelination is when cells in the nervous system called oligodendrocytes produce myelin, a fatty substance that coats neurons and enables the fast transmission of electrical signals throughout the nervous system. Myelin is extremely important for everyday function including motor coordination (i.e. walking), sensory perception (i.e. eyesight), and thinking (i.e. remembering where you left your keys). MS causes myelin loss, which increase fall risk, impair vision, and lead to physical disability requiring a wheelchair.

One student shared is using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) derived from patient-specific brain cells to screen potential drugs. Another student is harnessing the power of the body’s microorganisms to preserve myelin using an animal model of MS.

Backed by a recent National Multiple Sclerosis Society grant, UConn Health neuroscience faculty members David Martinelli and Stephen Crocker are studying the myelin-producing cells.

“We are studying whether a signaling protein expressed by oligodendrocyte progenitor cells initiates a previously unappreciated signaling pathway that can lead to the maturation of oligodendrocytes,” Dr. Martinelli said. “This could potentially lead to a therapy for MS patients to replace lost oligodendrocytes.”

Another NMSS grant is funding a research collaboration between the Neuroscience Department and UConn Center on Aging, led by Dr. Crocker and assistant professor Rosaria Guzzo. They are examining the effect of aging on the “regenerative capacity of the brain in MS using iPS cells that were generated from progressive MS patients,” Dr. Crocker said.

The Crocker lab previously has shown that cellular aging, or cellular senescence, is an active process in MS that may open new therapeutic opportunities to stimulate brain regeneration.

(Tischner et al., 2015)
This graph (click image for larger view) from a 2015 article in the journal Neurology shows the annual costs from average wholesale prices of the MS treatment IFN 5 interfon over 20 years. (Citation: “The cost of multiple sclerosis drugs in the US and the pharmaceutical industry: Too big to fail?” John R. Tischner, Daniel M. Hartung, Brian E. Rittenhouse, Daniel M. Hartung, Dennis N. Bourdette, Ruth H. Whitham, Dennis N. Bourdette, Sharia Ahmed, Ruth H. Whitham. Neurology Nov 2015, 85 (19) 1727-1728; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000002095)

Although MS is a debilitating disease, most people who have it do not develop severe disabilities and can appear unaffected. One of the discussions during the visit was about the challenges of living with MS.

It was stressed that MS, unlike other conditions, is not an obvious condition from an individual’s mere physical appearance. This can create discord between the public perceptions of a person diagnosed with MS and the reality of the disease. For example, myelin loss can cause people to have poor control over their gait or body, which can appear similiar to being under the influence of alcohol.

Current treatments for MS are a tale of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good news is, treatments for MS have change drastically over the past 10 years. There are now at least 12 disease-modifying therapies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The bad news is, identifying which medication is best for each individual is a challenge and requires a trial-and-error period.

The ugly part: Although MS treatments have been shown to improve the quality of life, they are very expensive and are increasing in cost every year. In 2004 the average annual coast of MS treatments was between $8,000 and $11,000, but now that same medication can cost upwards of $60,000. Adding to the challenge is the fact that newer MS treatments are starting at 25 percent to 60 percent higher in cost than the pre-existing medications, and these costs in the U.S. alone are higher than other countries. One reason for the inflation of MS treatment costs is the current status of the U.S. health care system, which doesn’t place limitations on drug prices. A national health care system that can negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies would impact the future of MS treatments, as well as the treatments of other medical conditions.

–Brittany Knight