UConn Health

Get Flu Shot, Contribute to Science

Study nurse Carlene Bartolotta applies a bandage after giving the flu shot to Nick Cesaro, who regularly has participated in the UConn Center on Aging's flu vaccine research for a decade. "We're really dependent on one another, it's as simple as that," Cesaro says. "I've lived long enough to have the opportunity to help, and it's nice to be able to help." (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health)
Study nurse Carlene Bartolotta applies a bandage after giving the flu shot to Nick Cesaro, who regularly has participated in the UConn Center on Aging’s flu vaccine research for a decade. “We’re really dependent on one another, it’s as simple as that,” Cesaro says. “I’ve lived long enough to have the opportunity to help, and it’s nice to be able to help.” (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health)

Now is the time to get the flu vaccine, especially if you’re older.

UConn Health researchers urge those who haven’t gotten this year’s flu vaccine yet to consider coming to the UConn Center on Aging to receive the vaccine as a participant in a flu shot study.

“Every older person should be getting the vaccine,” says Dr. George Kuchel, director of the UConn Center on Aging. “By volunteering for one of these studies, you do what’s good for you anyway, it doesn’t cost you anything, and at the same time you contribute to helping us develop vaccines that are going to work better in future years.”

Kuchel says most flu-related deaths in the U.S. each year are among the elderly. He and professor of immunology Laura Haynes, also an investigator in the Center on Aging, are leading two studies. One focuses on the differences in the way younger people and older people respond to the traditional flu vaccine. The other compares the traditional flu vaccine to the high-dose vaccine, which has four times the antigen. Both vaccines are proven effective, but the degree of their effectiveness varies by individual.

Dr. George Kuchel is director of the UConn Center on Aging. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health)
Dr. George Kuchel is director of the UConn Center on Aging. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health)

“The purpose of that study is to identify—using very innovative blood tests, some of which were first developed here, and also frailty measurements—the older adults who require the high-dose vaccine, as opposed to those who’d do better with the regular vaccine,” Kuchel says. “As we age, we get more and more different from each other, with some people remaining very robust and highly functional, other people becoming frail and even disabled, and everything in between. We know that on average, the high-dose vaccine may be better for the elderly. What we don’t know is, who are the people who get that greater benefit?”

Influenza manifests itself differently in older patients than in younger ones. Although the symptoms in older patients usually are actually milder, that brings other problems.

Laura Haynes studies the efficacy of the flu vaccine in older patients at the UConn Center on Aging. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health)
Laura Haynes studies the efficacy of the flu vaccine in older patients at the UConn Center on Aging. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health)

“When older people get the flu, it’s much more serious,” Haynes says. “Since the symptoms are less severe, people may not go to the doctor, they may not take the care that they need to when they get sick. This is even more problematic with the older population because they’re going to have more co-morbidities. They’re going to have more secondary infections that would then develop, which is really what the issue is, especially secondary pneumonia after flu. And that’s really what leads to death.”

“Dr. Haynes’ work is the first to show that a type of blood cell called T-lymphocyte plays a role in the declining ability of the aging body to respond to flu infection,” Kuchel says. “Because of that, we still need to give the vaccine to the elderly. If we want to make more progress, prevent more death, and prevent more hospitalization, we need to get even better vaccines.”

While the researchers don’t expect their studies to lead to the perfect vaccine for everyone immediately, participants at least can expect an immediate benefit this flu season.

“Even though the flu vaccine doesn’t work as well in older people as it does in younger people, using it becomes even more important in the elderly as a way helping to stay out of the hospital,” Haynes says.

The UConn Center on Aging flu vaccine studies are not limited to older patients. Researchers are seeking study volunteers as young as 20 years old. All participants receive an FDA-approved flu shot at no cost to them, nominal compensation for their time, and free, convenient parking for study visits. To learn more about the studies, call 860-679-3043.

Med Students Hold Leadership Week, With AMA Support

Members of the UConn American Medical Association chapter's executive board.
Members of the UConn American Medical Association chapter’s executive board. Left to right, back: Alyssa Ettinger, Jonathan Lis, Chris Hampton, and Andrew Glick. Front: Elise Mester, Sarah Mattessich, and Christina Klecker. Not pictured: Victoria Greenwood. (Eric Swanson/UConn Health Photo)

It’s Leadership Week at the UConn School of Medicine, a series of events to provide a chance for students who envision themselves as leaders in medicine to share ideas with those who already are—in this case, members of the UConn Health faculty.

The annual tradition of UConn’s American Medical Association student section runs through Thursday. Among the participating faculty are Dr. Bruce Liang, medical school dean, as well as Drs. Paul Dworkin, Anton Alerte, Jane Grant-Kels and Rob Fuller.

“Leadership Week promotes AMA’s core value of leadership by providing an interactive forum for physicians and medical students to discuss pathways to leadership roles and professional development,” says Sarah Mattessich, one of the student organizers. “Last year this event was extremely successful. We had 80 students attend, and we are expecting similar numbers this year.”

Mattessich, a second-year medical student, serves as treasurer of the UConn chapter of the AMA. In that capacity she was able to secure a Section Involvement Grant from the AMA to help offset the costs of holding Leadership Week.

“Our grant will allow us to provide food for our series of events: one dinner and two lunch-and-learns,” Mattessich says. “Success of this event has been possible through the efforts of our entire executive board of second-year medical students. Jonathan Lis and Andrew Glick, the co-chairs of our AMA chapter, have been instrumental in executing this event, including recruiting physician speakers and advertising among the student body.”

Psychiatry professor Mary Casey Jacob, the chapter’s academic adviser, praises Mattessich for her efforts to coordinate this year’s event, by working closely with Lis and Glick and by obtaining the grant.

“This tells us Sarah wishes to provide this important service to her peers, that she is highly organized, and that she know she wants to be a leader within medicine,” Jacob says. “UConn is proud of students like Sarah, who will not only be excellent doctors but also people who nurture their roles within communities as leaders.”

Last year, the UConn chapter hosted the regional student AMA meeting. The year before, UConn’s was a finalist for Chapter of the Year.

“This is a very active and accomplished group,” Jacob says. “That they manage to achieve so much on top of medical studies is quite an achievement.”

Accelerate UConn Welcomes 1st Class of Entrepreneurs

The first class of Accelerate UConn entrepreneurs learns about customer discovery at their kickoff session Oct. 2. (Photo provided by Jessica McBride)
The first class of Accelerate UConn entrepreneurs learns about customer discovery at their kickoff session Oct. 2. (Matt Dunn for UConn)

Accelerate UConn, a National Science Foundation (NSF) entrepreneurship program at UConn, has selected 10 faculty-student teams to receive seed grants and business training aimed at more quickly and successfully commercializing early-stage technologies developed at the University.

Accelerate UConn is one of the NSF’s I-Corps sites, which are housed at academic institutions around the country. I-Corps is a key initiative established in 2011 to increase the volume of commercially viable technologies coming out of academic labs. The program provides a framework for entrepreneurial faculty, staff, and students to join with industry mentors and participate in special NSF-endorsed curriculum. Participants learn to assess the market potential of their technologies, and win funds to support early customer contact to validate concepts and market strategies.

“There is a wealth of technologies coming out of UConn labs that could be commercialized with the right set of tools,” says UConn Vice President for Research Jeff Seemann. “Accelerate UConn allows early-stage ideas to move beyond the lab and join the ranks of other successful Connecticut startups.”

Despite being a new initiative, many faculty and students with diverse backgrounds recently applied to be part of the program’s first class in order to improve their chances of success, according to UConn business professor Timothy Folta, director of the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CCEI).

“We are thrilled with the quality of both the applicants and their technologies,” Folta says. “We’re confident that the positive response to Accelerate UConn’s initial application round attests to the program’s value and a desire within the UConn community for additional entrepreneurial support.”

The winning technologies are at varying degrees of development in several different industries. Some of the teams have already formed startup companies based on their technologies, while others may seek to develop licensing opportunities with existing industry. Among the winning teams:

Dr. Robert Kelly, developed the artificial salivary gland that is being commercialized under the Acclerate UConn entrepreneurship program. (Lanny Nagler for UConn Health)
Dr. Robert Kelly of the UConn School of Dental Medicine developed an artificial salivary gland that is being commercialized under the Accelerate UConn entrepreneurship program. (Lanny Nagler for UConn Health)
  • Oral Fluid Dynamics is commercializing an artificial salivary gland that provides a solution for patients suffering from a lack of salivary flow, and was developed by Dr. Robert Kelly, professor of reconstructive sciences at the UConn School of Dental Medicine.
  • 3D Array Technology will leverage the program’s educational component and seed funding to continue to develop a high performance, low cost catalytic converter based on nano-structured materials. This technology was developed in the lab of Puxian Gao, associate professor of materials science and engineering.
  • ParrotMD, a student startup developed through the University’s Innovation Quest competition, is aimed at providing a solution for medication adherence in developing countries.

Other teams are still at the very initial stages of development, including those seeking to explore commercialization of innovations for:

  • composite materials
  • carbon nanotubes
  • scientific slide imaging
  • environmentally friendly flame retardants
  • topical skin treatment
  • surface sanitation

Each has the potential to become a successful startup according to the panel of industry experts who reviewed the applications. The program aims to make the road to successful commercialization a little less bumpy for all of the teams in Accelerate UConn’s first class.

Accelerate UConn launched in May 2015, and is the only NSF I-Corps site in Connecticut. The program serves all of the UConn campuses, including UConn Health, and is jointly operated by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation housed in the School of Business. Accelerate UConn supplements many other initiatives at UConn focused on commercialization, like the Technology Incubation Program, the CCEI Summer Fellowship Program, the construction of the UConn Tech Park at Storrs, and the growing relationship with The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine.

More information about Accelerate UConn is available at www.accelerate.uconn.edu.

–Jessica McBride

Dentist, Physicians, APRN Seeing Patients at UConn Health

UConn Health continues to grow its volume of practitioners in both Farmington and Storrs Center. Here are some of those who’ve recently started seeing patients.

Dr. Hsung Lin
, a graduate of the UConn School of Dental Medicine, is back with UConn. She practices family dentistry, including pediatric dentistry, in Storrs Center, where she is the director of dental services. One day a week she sees patients in the dental clinics in Farmington. In addition to general dentistry, she offers services including wisdom teeth extractions, root canals and dental implants. Lin completed her general practice residency at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center. She is fluent in Chinese.

Dr. Lenora Williams, Ob/gyn (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health)
Dr. Lenora Williams, Ob/gyn (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health)
Dr. Lenora Williams joins UConn Health at Storrs Center after more than 25 years providing comprehensive individualized ob/gyn care to a diverse population of patients at her private practice in Ellington. Williams’s clinical interests include menopause, reproductive needs, pap abnormalities and HPV, adolescent reproductive health, preconception counseling, PMS and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and minimally invasive in-office and outpatient procedures. Williams is a graduate of the UConn School of Medicine and the UConn Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency Program, and is a fellow of the American College of Ob/Gyn. She is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and is accredited in ob/gyn ultrasound by the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine.
Dr. Philip Blumenshine, psychiatry (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health)
Dr. Philip Blumenshine, psychiatry


Dr. Philip Blumenshine
is a psychiatrist specialty trained in psychotherapy, including psychodynamic, brief dynamic, and supportive psychotherapy. He sees patients in Farmington, at both the new Mood and Anxiety Clinic in the main building and at Adult Psychiatric Outpatient Services office, 10 Talcott Notch Road. He also is medical director of psychiatry emergency services. Blumenshine’s training includes a psychiatry residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center and an M.D. from Weill Cornell Medical College.

Dr. Janice Oliveri, primary care (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health)
Dr. Janice Oliveri, primary care (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health)

Dr. Janice Oliveri
, a member of the UConn School of Medicine faculty since 2000, is now part of the UConn Health primary care practice, seeing patients in the Outpatient Pavilion. Her clinical interests include preventive care, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and common dermatologic problems, and she offers office-based procedures such as joint injections and skin biopsies. She completed an internal medicine residency at UConn Health after earning her M.D. from the University of North Carolina.

Vivan Huynh
is nurse practitioner, also in the primary care practice in the Outpatient Pavilion. She sees general medicine patients for chronic conditions, sick visits, urgent care, and preventive health. Huynh is an advanced practice registered nurse in adult gerontology primary care and is licensed to prescribe medications. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Fairfield University and a doctorate of nursing practice from Quinnipiac University. She is fluent in Vietnamese.

 Photos by Janine Gelineau/UConn Health


New Travel Fellowship Named for Dr. Cato T. Laurencin

Dr. Cato T. Laurencin
Dr. Cato T. Laurencin (Peter Morenus/UConn Health)

The Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) announces the Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D. Travel Fellowship.

Created by the Society For Biomaterials, this fellowship will support underrepresented minorities in the field of biomaterials, by providing an undergraduate student the resources needed to attend the annual meeting of the Society For Biomaterials and to become a member of the Society. The goal of this initiative is to stimulate/encourage recipients to pursue a career in biomaterials.

The Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D. Travel Fellowship includes registration, airfare, hotels, transfers, and meals. Awardees also will receive complimentary membership in the Society For Biomaterials and assigned a graduate student mentor to guide them through the annual meeting and to help them pursue their advanced degree and career goals.

The fellowship is named for Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, founding director of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering; founding director of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical, Biological, Physical, and Engineering Sciences; and CICATS director. He is also the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery; professor of chemical engineering, materials science and engineering, and biomedical engineering; and the eighth designated University Professor in UConn’s History.

Laurencin is well known for his commitment to mentoring. He is the recipient of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Mentor Award, the Beckman Award for Mentoring, the Alvin F. Crawford Award for Mentoring, and received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Engineering and Math Mentoring from President Barack Obama in ceremonies at the White House.

An elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering, Laurencin is the recipient of the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award. In the Society For Biomaterials,  Laurencin has served as a meeting opening keynote speaker, chair of the Special Interest Group Committee, and has received both the Clemson Award for Contributions to the Literature and the Technology Innovation and Development Award from the Society. He is an International Fellow in Biomaterials Science and Engineering.

Additional information about the Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D. Travel Fellowship and the application is available at http://bit.ly/CTLtf.


UConn Health Celebrates Opening of East Hartford Office

Ribbon Cutting East Htfd UConn Partners JGelineau #188
Dr. Denis Lafreniere, along with local lawmakers and UConn Health faculty and staff, cutting the ribbon at the opening celebration. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health)

UConn Health held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of its new medical office suite at 800 Connecticut Boulevard in East Hartford on Thursday.

“The relocation of our offices will expand access to quality health care for the citizens of East Hartford and the surrounding towns,” said Dr. Denis Lafreniere, medical director of outpatient services and associate dean for clinical affairs. “UConn Health is proud to offer world-class health care to the East Hartford community.”

Formerly located at 99 Ash Street, the new office opened earlier this year and consists of approximately 12,000 square feet and employs 29 full- and part-time employees. Services offered at the new location include primary care, cardiology, nephrology, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, rheumatology, diabetes education, and a blood draw station.

Ribbon Cutting East Htfd UConn Partners JGelineau #160
East Hartford faculty and staff attend ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health)

Several local lawmakers attended the ceremony including East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc who said she is pleased UConn Health remained in the city. State Representative Henry Genga also thanked UConn Health for “providing much needed medical services to the East Hartford community.”

Clean Eating and Whole Foods

shutterstock_299783225Clean eating and whole foods are buzzwords that you frequently hear about in the media or talked about in the gym. However, do you really know what the concept means? Is clean eating a passing trend or is it a healthy, sound approach to eating?

“Clean eating is not a diet or a fad,” says Lifestyle Medicine expert Brad Biskup. “It’s a lifestyle approach to eating food in its most natural state,” adds Biskup. Clean eating has been around for some time particularly among fitness, nutrition, and health conscious individuals who have been “eating clean” for years.

Biskup will present a free program about clean eating and whole foods on Wednesday, September 16, at 7 p.m. in UConn Health’s Keller Auditorium where he will discuss the principles of clean eating as well as:

  • How whole foods and eating clean are beneficial to your health
  • Reasons to avoid processed foods
  • How to incorporate a clean eating plan into your diet

The program is free and open to the public. Registration is required by calling 860.679.7692. The Keller Auditorium is located in UConn Health’s Main Building in Farmington. For directions, visit uchc.edu.

UConn Health’s Lifestyle Medicine Program offers individuals a way to be proactive in treating and managing various health conditions, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes by simply changing or modifying their daily habits. The program is very personalized. An individual’s specific risk factors, behaviors, and limitations are evaluated, and a lifestyle plan is developed.

Ceremony Marks Academic Building Addition and Renovation Project

A groundbreaking ceremony on Monday marked an educational milestone for the UConn School of MedicineUConn School of Dental Medicine, and the UConn Graduate School. The Academic Building Addition and Renovation Project will consist of a nearly 18,000-square-foot addition and several smaller renovations to UConn Health’s existing Academic and L Buildings located in Farmington.

The ceremony coincided with the start of the academic careers of 98 medical and 42 dental students who will benefit from the project.

“Today we mark an inspirational milestone in the history of UConn Health with the creation of a new academic addition for all of our schools. Welcome to our future,” said Dr. Suzanne Rose, senior associate dean for education for the UConn School of Medicine. “What will take place in this building in the years to come will impact the patients and lives of our communities in Connecticut and beyond for decades to come, and in immeasurable ways as young women and men learn to become scientists, dentists, and physicians,” added Rose.

Dr. Steven Lepowsky, Chad Floyd, Dr. Suzanne Rose, Dr. R. Lamont MacNeil, Dr. Bruce Liang, Francis Archambault, Dr. Barbara Kream, and Dr. David Gregorio. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health Photo)

The Academic Building Addition and Renovation Project is a component of Bioscience Connecticut that was championed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and approved by the Connecticut General Assembly in 2011. “Our sincere gratitude to the governor for his vision and effort for Bioscience Connecticut which this is a part of,” said Dr. Bruce Liang, dean of the UConn School of Medicine. In addition to various building projects, Bioscience Connecticut calls for a 30 percent increase in the UConn Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine class sizes.

Dr. Steven Lepowsky, senior associate dean for the UConn School of Dental Medicine, concluded the ceremony by addressing the new medical and dental school students who attended the event by saying, “This project is all about you. This is all about ensuring that we provide our students with state-of-the-art facilities to get the best possible education.”

National Quality Measure for UConn Health Breast Program

NAPBC plaque 2015
UConn Health’s Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center has an accredited breast health program. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health photo)

UConn Health’s Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center is celebrating its newly accredited breast program.

The National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers has awarded UConn Health’s cancer center full three-year accreditation, a formal acknowledgment from the American College of Surgeons of UConn Health’s commitment to providing high-quality evaluation and management of patients with breast disease.

The distinction “is only given to those centers that have voluntarily committed to provide the highest level of quality breast care and that undergo a rigorous evaluation process and review of their performance,” according to an NAPBC news release. “A breast center that achieves NAPBC accreditation has demonstrated a firm commitment to offer its patients every significant advantage in their battle against breast disease.”

Standards required for accreditation include proficiency in center leadership, clinical management, research, community outreach, professional education, and quality improvement.

“The breast program is judged and evaluated, not only by the excellence of its doctors, but also the ability of the entire patient care staff as well as clinical trial, outreach and research staff to address the multitude of issues that face women with breast health concerns,” says Dr. Susan Tannenbaum, Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center director of medical oncology. “It additionally means that the program is actively working towards improving the breast health of future generations as well as working towards reducing disparities in our patient populations.”

The surveyor’s report gave UConn Health high marks for its multidisciplinary care, an institutional commitment to basic science research, and strong hospital administrative support for the cancer program.

“Accreditation is something that informs patients or supporters of our program, that we are recognized as a dedicated and capable program,” Tannenbaum says. “In getting our accreditation, our breast program was acknowledged to have all those elements needed, but recognized as well to have many things in place to be used as an example of what others should look at for best practices in a breast program, and that is an accomplishment we are all proud of.”

More information about the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers is available at www.accreditedbreastcenters.org.


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UConn Health Hospital CEO Joins State Hospital Association Trustees

UConn Health’s top hospital executive is now also a Connecticut Hospital Association trustee.

Anne Diamond, who was named CEO of John Dempsey Hospital in December after 16 months as interim CEO, was elected to the CHA Board of Trustees at the association’s annual meeting June 30.

“I am honored to be among the executives elected to represent the dynamic needs of Connecticut hospitals now and into the future,” Diamond says. “I believe my clinical, administrative, research and legal experience brings a unique perspective to the challenging issues of health care today and for the future.”

It’s the first time a UConn hospital executive has been a CHA trustee.

“It speaks to the emerging leadership role that UConn Health is taking in the hospital landscape within the state,” Diamond says. “As a trustee, I will have the opportunity to better understand the pressing issues of hospitals within our state, region and nationally on key health care issues in the areas of quality and patient safety, access and coverage, workforce, community health, health equity, and hospital reimbursement.”

Diamond joins a 21-member board that serves as CHA’s principal policy-making body. Trustees include health care institution chief executives as well as hospital trustees, physicians and other senior health care leaders. Her term runs through June 2018.

“Anne brings to the CHA Board extraordinary experience and commitment to patient care. She is deeply involved in improving population health, serving as co-chair of the CHA Asthma Initiative and as a member of the Committee on Population Health,” says CHA CEO Jennifer Jackson. “Through her leadership, UConn Health John Dempsey Hospital is also a leader in quality and patient safety, and recently won CHA’s John D. Thompson Award for Excellence in the Delivery of Healthcare Through the Use of Data for its project, STEMI Partnership for Patient Outcome Optimization. We look forward to having Anne serve as a member of the CHA Board of Trustees.”

Before her appointment as interim CEO of John Dempsey Hospital, Diamond served for two years as the hospital’s chief operating officer. She joined UConn Health in 2010 as associate vice president of clinical operations.

“This is an exciting time for UConn Health in so many ways, as our new hospital and outpatient pavilion provide true healing environments for our patients,” Diamond says. “As a trustee, I will be able to ensure that the needs of our patients are represented as new statewide initiatives are planned.”

Diamond, who earned an Executive Juris Doctor from the Concord School of Law, began her career as a nuclear medicine technologist.

The CHA Board of Trustees is one of many boards and committees on which she serves:

  • American Heart Association Go Red For Women (past chair 2014)
  • American Heart Association Ball Committee,
  • Leo and Anne Albert Institute for Bladder Cancer Care and Research (treasurer)
  • Capital Area Health Consortium
  • Women’s Choice Award for Healthcare Advisory Board
  • American Red Cross Gala Committee
  • UConn Health Auxiliary
  • CHA Board of Directors Subcommittees on Population Health, Statewide Asthma Initiative (co-chair)
  • UConn Health Finance Corporation

CHA states its mission as representing the interests of Connecticut’s hospitals on key health care issues through state and federal advocacy.

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