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Saturday, April 30, 2016

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UMD Study Finds Connecting Uninsured Patients to Primary Care Could Reduce ER Use

May 6, 2015

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418
Hillery Tsumba 301-628-3425

Montgomery County, Md. Initiative Could Improve Health, Reduce Costs

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – An intervention to connect low-income uninsured and Medicaid patients to a reliable source of primary health care shows promise for reducing avoidable use of hospital emergency departments in Maryland. A University of Maryland School of Public Health study evaluating the results of the intervention was published this week in the May issue of the journal Health Affairs

For twenty years, use of hospital emergency departments has been on the rise in the United States, particularly among low-income patients who face barriers to accessing health care outside of hospitals, including not having an identifiable primary health care provider. Almost half of emergency room visits are considered “avoidable.” The Emergency Department-Primary Care Connect Initiative of the Primary Care Coalition, which ran from 2009 through 2011, linked low-income uninsured and Medicaid patients to safety-net health clinics. 

“Our study found that uninsured patients with chronic health issues – such as those suffering from hypertension, diabetes, asthma, COPD, congestive heart failure, depression or anxiety – relied less on the emergency department after they were linked to a local health clinic for ongoing care,” says Dr. Karoline Mortensen, assistant professor of health services administration at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and senior researcher. “Connecting patients to primary care and expanding the availability of these safety-net clinics could reduce emergency department visits and provide better continuity of care for vulnerable populations.”  

Funded by a grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the initiative engaged all five of the hospitals operating in Montgomery County, Maryland at the time, and four safety-net clinics serving low-income patients. Using “patient navigators,” individuals trained to help patients find the care they need and can afford, these hospitals referred more than 10,000 low-income, uninsured and Medicaid patients who visited emergency departments to four local primary care clinics, with the goal of encouraging them to establish an ongoing relationship with the clinic and reduce their reliance on costly emergency department care. 

Two hospitals in Montgomery County who participated in the intervention continued the program after the initial grant period concluded because of the benefits they saw for patients and for reducing emergency department visits and associated costs. These hospitals are currently testing a new version of the intervention specifically deigned to link emergency department patients with behavioral health conditions to appropriate community-based services. 

While hospital administrators and health policy experts throughout the country are recognizing that access to primary care improves continuity of care for patients and reduces avoidable use of emergency departments, the implications of this project are particularly important for hospitals in Maryland, which are now operating under a unique all-payer model for hospital payments. Within this new payment structure, Maryland hospitals will have to meet ambitious spending, quality of care, and population health goals. Reducing avoidable use of emergency departments can help in reaching these goals.

The project provides promise not only for hospitals in Maryland but throughout the nation to improve health care experiences and outcomes for their patients. Shared learning systems were an integral component of the project so participants were learning from each other and sharing best practices throughout the project and that learning has now been documented and can be replicated in other communities.

“This was an incredibly rewarding project to work on,” says Barbara H. Eldridge, Manager of Quality Improvement at the Primary Care Coalition. “We created a learning system that permits us to sustain improved communication between patients and their providers, between hospital discharge planners and community based clinics, and across five hospitals operating in Montgomery County.” The initiative has proven successful in Montgomery County, Maryland and is being replicated in communities in other parts of the country. 

“Linking Uninsured Patients Treated In The Emergency Department To Primary Care Shows Some Promise In Maryland” was written by Theresa Y. Kim, Karoline Mortensen, and Barbara Eldridge and published in the journal Health Affairs

University Launches Dynamic, Interactive Information Website UMD Right Now

December 4, 2012

Crystal Brown 301-405-4618 crystalb@umd.edu

College Park, Md. – Today, the University of Maryland launched a brand-new multimedia news and information portal, UMD Right Now, which provides members of the media and the public with real-time information on the university and its extended community.

UMD Right Now replaces Newsdesk, which previously served as the university’s news hub and central resource for members of the media. The new site is aimed at reaching broader audiences and allows visitors to keep up with the latest Maryland news and events, view photos and videos and connect with the university across all of its social media platforms.

“We designed UMD Right Now to be a comprehensive, vibrant site where visitors can find new and exciting things happening at Maryland,” said Linda Martin, executive director, Web and New Media Strategies. “Through social media, video, photos and news information, we hope to engage visitors and compel the community to explore all that Maryland has to offer.”

The new website, umdrightnow.umd.edu, contains up-to-date news releases and announcements, facts and figures about the university, a searchable database of faculty and staff experts, information highlighting innovation and entrepreneurship at UMD, additional resources for news media and other campus and athletics news.

“UMD RightNow is the place to go to find out all the things happening on and around campus on any given day,” said Crystal Brown, chief communications officer. “This website brings real-time news, events and information right to your fingertips.”

For more information and contact information for the Office of University Communications, please visit umdrightnow.umd.edu.

Extreme Weather Events Linked to More Asthma Hospitalization

April 29, 2016

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418

The risk of hospitalization from asthma increased 23% overall when there was an extreme heat event during summer months. Five to 17 year old children were at even greater risk.COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Extreme heat and heavy rainfall are related to increased risk of hospitalization for asthma in Maryland, according to a study by University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers.

Based on over a decade of asthma hospitalization data (115,923 cases from 2000-2012), researchers observed higher risk of asthma hospitalization after extreme heat or extreme precipitation events. The increases in risk were particularly high during summer months. Their findings are published in the journal Environmental Health.

“Previous scientific studies have shown that extreme weather events are becoming more common, more intense, and longer lasting in response to our changing climate. Our study shows is that increases in the number of extreme heat and extreme precipitation events, particularly during summer months, lead to more asthma hospitalizations in Maryland.” said Dr. Amir Sapkota, senior author of the study and an associate professor at the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health.

Recent estimates suggest that over 430,000 adults and 125,000 children in Maryland are living with asthma. Researchers observed a 23 percent increase in risk of asthma hospitalizations when there was an extreme heat event during summer months. This risk was higher among 5-17 year olds. Similarly, extreme precipitation events during summer months increased the risk of asthma hospitalizations by 11 percent.

“Our data show that the risk of hospitalization for asthma related to extreme weather varies across demographic subgroups in Maryland. We need to take such differences into account when designing public health responses to climate change”, said Dr. Sutyajeet Soneja, a postdoctoral fellow at the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, and lead author of the study.  

To identify extreme weather events, the researchers relied on county and calendar day specific thresholds for precipitation and maximum temperature (90th and 95th percentile, respectively) that were calculated based on 30 years of baseline data (1960-1989). The researchers suggest that extreme heat events during summer months may lead to higher concentration of harmful air pollutants such as ozone, which is known to exacerbate asthma. Extreme precipitation events may lead to release of pollen spores, leading to severe asthma attack and subsequent hospitalization.  

The paper “Exposure to extreme heat and precipitation events associated with increased risk of hospitalization for asthma in Maryland, U.S.A.” was written by Sutyajeet Soneja, Chengsheng Jiang, Jared Fisher, Crystal Romeo Upperman, Clifford Mitchell and Amir Sapkota and published in the journal Environmental Health.

First Multi-Year Study of Honey Bee Parasites & Disease Reveals Troubling Trends

April 28, 2016

Matthew Wright 301-405-9267 

Varroa mite infestations more severe than previously thought and linked to spread of
viral diseases according to UMD study 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Honey bee colonies in the United States are in decline, due in part to the ill effects of voracious mites, fungal gut parasites and a wide variety of debilitating viruses. Researchers from the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently completed the first comprehensive, multi-year study of honey bee parasites and disease as part of the National Honey Bee Disease Survey. The findings reveal some alarming patterns, but provide at least a few pieces of good news as well. 

The results, published online in the journal Apidologie on April 20, 2016, provide an important five-year baseline against which to track future trends. Key findings show that the varroa mite, a major honey bee pest, is far more abundant than previous estimates indicated and is closely linked to several damaging viruses. Also, the results show that the previously rare Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus has skyrocketed in prevalence since it was first detected by the survey in 2010.

The good news, however, is that three potentially damaging exotic species have not yet been introduced into the United States: the parasitic tropilaelaps mite, the Asian honey bee Apis cerana and slow bee paralysis virus. 

“Poor honey bee health has gained a lot of attention from scientists and the media alike in recent years. However, our study is the first systematic survey to establish disease baselines, so that we can track changes in disease prevalence over time,” said Kirsten Traynor, a postdoctoral researcher in entomology at UMD and lead author on the study. “It highlights some troubling trends and indicates that parasites strongly influence viral prevalence.”

Varroa mites (dark red) primarily feed on honey bee larvae, but spread from hive to hive on adult bees. The mites transmit disease, including several debilitating viruses. Image credit: Bee Informed Partnership The results, based on a survey of beekeepers and samples from bee colonies in forty-one states and two territories (Puerto Rico and Guam), span five seasons from 2009 through 2014. The study looked at two major parasites that affect honey bees: the varroa mite and nosema, a fungal parasite that disrupts a bee’s digestive system. The study found clear annual trends in the prevalence of both parasites, with varroa infestations peaking in late summer or early fall and nosema peaking in late winter. 

The study also found notable differences in the prevalence of varroa and nosema between migratory and stationary beehives. Migratory beekeepers—those who truck their hives across the country every summer to pollinate a variety of crops—reported lower levels of varroa compared with stationary beekeepers, whose hives stay put year-round. However, the reverse was true for nosema, with a lower
relative incidence of nosema infection reported by stationary

Additionally, more than 50 percent of all beekeeping operations sampled had high levels of varroa infestation at the beginning of winter—a crucial time when colonies are producing long-lived winter bees that must survive on stored pollen and honey. 

“Our biggest surprise was the high level of varroa, especially in fall, and in well-managed colonies cared for by beekeepers who have taken steps to control the mites,” said study co-author Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at UMD. “We knew that varroa was a problem, but it seems to be an even bigger problem than we first thought. Moreover, varroa’s ability to spread viruses presents a more dire situation than we suspected.”

For years, evidence has pointed to varroa mites as a culprit in the spread of viruses, vanEngelsdorp noted. Until now, however, much of this evidence came from lab-based studies. The current study provides crucial field-based validation of the link between varroa and viruses. 

“We know that varroa acts as a vector for viruses. The mites are basically dirty hypodermic needles,” Traynor said. “The main diet for the mites is blood from the developing bee larva. When the bee emerges, the mites move on to the nearest larval cell, bringing viruses with them. Varroa can also spread viruses between colonies. When a bee feeds on a flower, mites can jump from one bee to another and infect a whole new colony.”

This bee is infected with Deformed Wing Virus, one of many viruses spread by varroa mites. Image credit: Bee Informed Partnership Nosema, the fungal gut parasite, appears to have a more nuanced relationship with honey bee viruses. Nosema infection strongly correlates to the prevalence of Lake Sinai Virus 2, first identified in 2013, and also raises the risk for Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. However, the researchers found an inverse relationship between nosema and Deformed Wing Virus.

Some viruses do not appear to be associated with varroa or nosema at all. One example is Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus, which causes loss of motor control and can kill individual bees within days. This virus was first detected by the survey in the U.S. in 2010. At that time, less than 1 percent of all samples submitted for study tested positive for the virus. Since then, the virus’ prevalence roughly doubled every year, reaching 16 percent in 2014.

“Prior to this national survey, we lacked the epidemiological baselines of disease prevalence in honey bees. Similar information has been available for years for the cattle, pork and chicken industries,” Traynor said. “I think people who get into beekeeping need to know that it requires maintenance. You wouldn’t get a dog and not take it to the vet, for example. People need to know what is going on with the livestock they’re managing.”

While parasites and disease are huge factors in declining honey bee health, there are other contributors as well. Pesticides, for example, have been implicated in the decline of bee colonies across the country. 

“Our next step is to provide a similar baseline assessment for the effects of pesticides,” vanEngelsdorp said. “We have multiple years of data and as soon as we’ve finished the analyses, we’ll be ready to tell that part of the story as well.” 

The research paper, “Multiyear survey targeting disease incidence in US honey bees,” Kirsten Traynor, Karen Rennich, Eva Forsgren, Robyn Rose, Jeffery Pettis, Grace Kunkel, Shayne Madella, Jay Evans, Dawn Lopez and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, was published online in the journal Apidologie on April 20, 2016.

UMD Study Reveals "Targeted" Housing Policy Key to Preventing Transit-Induced Gentrification

April 27, 2016

Maggie Haslam 202-258-8946

Findings offer important clues for lawmakers looking to increase access
to jobs and opportunity for low-income households

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Researchers at the University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth have leveraged an innovative land use model to predict how different policies surrounding Transit Oriented Development, or TOD, will affect housing, gentrification and opportunity in the Washington, D.C. region. 

The study, “Transit-Induced Gentrification: Who Will Stay, and Who Will Go?”, suggests that affordable housing requirements, specifically those targeting new construction surrounding TODs, will result in less gentrification and a more diverse mix of incomes within the community. The paper is featured online in Housing Policy Debate and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal’s print edition.  

Executed and authored by Associate Professor Casey Dawkins and Assistant Professor Rolf Moeckel, the study examines 10 different housing policy scenarios and their potential impact on low-income housing near transit centers in the Washington, D.C. region. To simulate the scenarios and measure their impact on the housing market, the researchers integrated the Maryland Statewide Transportation Model (MSTM) with the Simple Integrated Land Use Orchestrator (SILO), an open-source micro-simulation model that can account for “real world” constraints—like travel time and housing costs—particularly those faced by low-income households. The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) provided support for further development of SILO and its integration with the transportation model. Traditionally, SILO has been used for land use and transportation scenarios; this is the first time the model has been applied to examine housing policies. 

“A novelty of SILO is that it explicitly accounts for constraints in housing location choice,” said Moeckel. “The model ensures that no one moves into a home that is significantly above the household’s budget, and that no households choose locations that are too far away from their workplaces. This makes SILO much more realistic, particularly when housing policies are to be analyzed.” 

The results show that supply-side policies, such as requiring a percentage of new construction to be low-income housing, have more effect on mitigating transit-induced gentrification than programs like rental vouchers. The results also show that affordable housing policies targeted towards transit were significantly more effective than a region-wide approach. “You can require new housing near transit to be affordable without having a major impact on housing affordability in the region,” said Dawkins.  

The paper offers important clues for lawmakers looking to increase access to jobs and opportunity for low-income households; the study could be especially significant for the Washington, D.C. region as they prepare for the expansion of the Silver Line and the construction of the region’s Purple Line. To access the paper, visit Housing Policy Debate’s website, here.

University of Maryland Celebrates 18th Annual Maryland Day

April 27, 2016

Katie Lawson 301-405-4622

Explore our world of Fearless Ideas with more than 400 free, family-friendly and interactive events

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland will host its 18th annual Maryland Day from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, 2016. UMD's campus-wide celebration of innovation, creativity and academic excellence will offer more than 400 free, family-friendly events and exhibits that teach and inspire future innovators.

A variety of events and activities spanning the entire UMD campus will be divided into six learning neighborhoods, including Terp Town Center, Ag Day Avenue, Art & Design Place, Biz & Society Hill, Sports & Rec Row and Science & Tech Way

Highlights for this year’s Maryland Day include:

  • “Do Good” Campus – Take part in a fun and inspiring journey across UMD’s “do good” campus, exploring how students are taking on real-world issues. Enjoy activities and exhibits, games to test your social smarts and the Do Good Dollar exercise to support Terps improving our communities. Visit all stations for the chance to take home a prize. 
  • Launch UMD – Student entrepreneurs, social leaders and artists compete to win cash prizes to bring their dream projects to life. Join the live audience or visit the Launch UMD tent on McKeldin Mall to select a winner and support the next big thing to come out of UMD.
  • Diversity Cooking Stage – UMD chefs showcase the diversity of the Dining Services team members, who come from over 70 countries, and incorporate local products into dishes that represent the diversity of Maryland. Learn how to prepare some flavorful dishes inspired by El Salvadorian, Vietnamese, Native American and Ethiopian cuisine and a common international cooking methodâbarbecue. Guests will receive a sample of the dish and can take home recipe cards.
  • Men’s and Women’s Basketball Autograph Sessions – Join members of the teams for a photo and autograph session. One photo and autograph per person; the line will be limited to the first 500 people.
  • Come Fly with Gymkana – Take flight in the home of Gymkana, the student troupe showcasing gymnastics and acrobatics. Participate in an obstacle course including the trampoline, spring floor, bars and other equipment that team members use to create their magical performances.
  • Fearless Foaling – Visit the newest members of the UMD farm family: our 1-month-old thoroughbred foals. These little athletes are sure to please as they frolic in the paddock pretending to be the next winner of Maryland’s Preakness Stakes.
  • Mars: A Planet Populated by Robots – Robots are our partners for exploring the planets, deep ocean and other frontiers. Check out the robots UMD engineers are developing for upcoming exploration missions. If you ask nicely, you might get to drive one. 

In addition, visitors can learn about UMD’s schools and colleges, catch up with fellow Terps and enjoy live performances and food. 

To view the full Maryland Day schedule, visit www.MarylandDay.umd.edu. Follow the celebration and join on social media with #MarylandDay. 

Maryland Day will take place rain or shine. Parking and admission are free.

UMD Ranks Highly in Annual RecycleMania Tournament

April 26, 2016

Andrew Muir 301-405-7068

UMD surpasses 2015 results in every category, ranks in the top 20 for pounds recycled

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland ranked highly in the 2016 RecycleMania tournament, the nation’s premier waste reduction and recycling competition among colleges and universities. This year, UMD surpassed its 2015 results in every category, and ranked No. 19 nationwide in the Gorilla category with 776,712 pounds of recycling throughout the competition. 

The 2016 competition featured 350 schools participating from 48 states in the United States, Washington D.C. and Canada, with an enrollment of 4.4 million students. Competing colleges and universities were ranked according to how much recycling, trash and food waste they collected over two months. Between February and April, UMD saved 918 metric tons of CO2 over an 8 week period – comparable to keeping more than 180 cars off the road or the energy consumption of 79 households during this period of time.

Other UMD highlights from the competition included: 

  • No. 1 in the state of Maryland and No. 19 nationwide in the Gorilla category with 776,712 pounds of recycling throughout the competition
  • No. 1 in the state of Maryland and No. 2 in the Big Ten for the Food Service Organics category, collecting 5.34 pounds of compostables per person
  • No. 2 in the state of Maryland and No. 2 in the Big Ten for the Waste Minimization category, generating 40.187 pounds of recycling per person
  • Overall improved recycling rate of 41.91% during RecycleMania competition 8-week period (increase of 4.36% from 2015)

A new UMD theme for this year’s competition, “Clean the Stream in 2016” focused on educating the university community about how to recycle properly, putting an emphasis on items that should not be placed in campus recycling bins. 

“RecycleMania is always an exciting time for Terps Recycle. This year we focused on the quality of our collections,” said Bill Guididas, Coordinator, Building and Landscape Maintenance, Facilities Management. “The theme was ‘Clean the Stream in 2016’ and the results were wonderful.”

Continued outreach efforts also proved effective for UMD with two sensitive document shredding and e-waste events, educational activities at residence halls, and the third annual “Recycle This!” video contest.

“RecycleMania participants have again demonstrated innovations in recycling and new ways to reduce waste,” said Stacy Wheeler, president of RecycleMania, Inc. “These campus efforts will influence students’ lifelong recycling habits, which will ultimately help to address some of the planet's most pressing challenges.”

Click here to see a full breakdown of UMD’s results.

UMD to Break Ground on Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation

April 25, 2016

Katie Lawson 301-405-4622

Vision and Plans to Be Revealed for First-of-Its-Kind Building Made Possible by
Oculus Co-Founder and CEO’s $31 Million Gift

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Joined by dignitaries, the University of Maryland will break ground Saturday on the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation, a new computer science building designed for future-focused developments in virtual reality, augmented reality, computer vision, robotics, artificial intelligence and computing platforms. 

Offering unprecedented opportunities for students and faculty to create bold new applications of computer science, the building is fueled by the largest gift in university history. The $31 million gift from Oculus co-founder and CEO Brendan Iribe, along with a $4 million gift from Oculus chief software architect and co-founder Michael Antonov and $3 million from Elizabeth Iribe, are helping to make the building possible and increasing scholarship and endowment support for students and faculty. Iribe and Antonov met as students at the University of Maryland.


  • Larry Hogan, Governor, State of Maryland 
  • Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., President, Maryland Senate 
  • Wallace D. Loh, President, University of Maryland 
  • Brendan Iribe, Co-founder and CEO, Oculus 
  • Jayanth Banavar, Dean, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences 
  • Peter Weiler, Vice President, University Relations
  • Special Guests 


Groundbreaking and celebration ceremony of Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation


Saturday, April 30 at 9:30 a.m.
Please note: this event precedes Maryland Day, the university’s open house showcasing more than 400 events across campus, happening from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. 


Future home of the Iribe Center at the University of Maryland
The event is located in Lot GG1. Visit maps.umd.edu for a campus map.


RSVP: Media must RSVP to lawsonk@umd.edu


April 30
UMD celebrates today the groundbreaking of the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation, a new building... Read
April 29
Extreme heat and heavy rainfall are related to increased risk of hospitalization for asthma in Maryland, according to a... Read
April 28
Varroa mite infestations more severe than previously thought and linked to spread of viral diseases according to UMD... Read
April 27
Findings offer important clues for lawmakers looking to increase access to jobs and opportunity for low-income... Read