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Saturday, October 10, 2015

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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.

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, University of Maryland Students to Discuss Currency Redesign and the New 10

October 9, 2015

Graham Binder, University of Maryland, 301-405-4076
Treasury Public Affairs, U.S. Department of the Treasury, 202-622-2960

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew will visit the University of Maryland for a town hall style conversation with students on currency redesign and the new $10 bill. During the event, titled “Conversation with Secretary Lew on Currency Redesign,” students will have a discussion with the Secretary on which woman they would like to see honored and share their recommendations and ideas about how to feature the meaning of democracy on the next generation of notes.


  • Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew
  • Dr. Gregory F. Ball, Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, University of Maryland 
  • University of Maryland students and faculty

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

  • Doors Open: 4:00 p.m. 
  • Event: 4:30 p.m.

Security requires that all media with video or still cameras must arrive for check-in and be in place no later than 3:30 p.m. for a security sweep. There will be no late entry. 

All additional media should arrive prior to the event start time of 4:30 p.m. 

Special Events Room, McKeldin Library, 6th floor 
University of Maryland, College Park 20742

Complimentary parking will be available for media in the Union Lane Garage, adjacent to the Stamp Student Union and a short walk to McKeldin Library. Please identify yourself as a member of the media attending the event to the parking attendant.

Media will be required to show identification and credentials at the media check-in table outside of Special Events Room 6137 in McKeldin Library prior to entering the event. 

A mult-box audio feed will be available at the event.

All media should RSVP to Ronda Buckmon at ronda.buckmon@treasury.gov.

UMD Libraries Celebrate 150th Anniversary of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland"

October 8, 2015

Eric Bartheld 301-314-0964 

Lewis Carroll collectors and University Libraries team up for a “mad” exhibit

Illustration by John Tenniel from the popular 1890 edition of Alice in WonderlandCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – University of Maryland Libraries will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s classic "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" with an exhibit opening Friday, October 16 at Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland.  

Items on exhibit include a rare copy of the first American edition of “Alice in Wonderland” and dozens of international editions featuring Alice as interpreted by publishers and illustrators in Japan, Russia, Australia, Germany and more.

Though best known as the creator of Alice, the fictional girl who fell down a rabbit hole and met creatures such as the Cheshire Cat and Mad Hatter, Carroll was also an inventor, photographer, mathematician and teacher. The exhibit includes a volume of Carroll’s mathematical writings from his personal library.

The exhibit showcases the private collection of Clare and August Imholtz, longtime friends of University of Maryland Libraries and collectors who over 35 years have amassed an extraordinary array of items related to Lewis Carroll. Illustrations and ephemera reveal a cross-cultural look at Alice, and other early works of fiction show Carroll’s broad interests.  

Illustration by John Tenniel from the popular 1890 edition of Alice in Wonderland

“Collecting is fun,” said Clare Imholtz, “and imposes a duty to save, organize, catalog and share.” 

Alice 150 Years and Counting…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll: Selections from the Collection of Clare and August Imholtz is free and open to the public, and runs through July 2016 in the Maryland Room Exhibit Gallery, located in Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland, College Park. An opening reception, to which the public is invited, occurs Friday, October 16, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information including gallery hours and directions, please visit: www.lib.umd.edu/Alice150

UMD Climbs World Higher Education Rankings

October 8, 2015

Kristen Seabolt 301-405-4621

UMD named top 50 global university by U.S. News & World Report 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – This week, the University of Maryland climbed world higher education rankings, rising to No. 41 in the second annual U.S. News & World Report Best Global Universities rankings. UMD is up 10 spots from No. 51 in last year’s inaugural list.

The Best Global Universities rankings encompass the top 750 institutions across 57 countries. These institutions were ranked based on 12 indicators that measured academic research performance and global and regional research reputations. 

UMD was also ranked among the top 25 globally in four subject rankings, including:

  • Geosciences – No. 14 
  • Physics – No. 18 
  • Economics and Business – No. 22
  • Space Science – No. 23 

Nine additional subjects made the top 100, including Agricultural Sciences, Arts and Humanities, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Environment/Ecology, Plant and Animal Science, Psychiatry/Psychology, and Social Sciences and Public Health.

Earlier this week, UMD was ranked No. 20 among U.S. public universities in the 2015-2016 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, climbing 6 spots from No. 26 in 2014-2015. In addition, UMD improved in the world rankings to No. 117, up 15 spots from No. 132. The annual Times Higher Education World University Rankings lists the best global research-intensive universities across core values of teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

The full U.S. News & World Report Best Global Universities list is available here, and the full Times Higher Education World University Rankings are available here.

Novel Microscopy Method Illuminates Cell Changes Caused by Aging, Injury & Disease

October 7, 2015

Alyssa Wolice 301-405-2057

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A University of Maryland-led team of researchers has developed an optical microscopy technique capable of shedding new light on how the mechanical properties of cells change in the course of aging, injury healing and disease pathogenesis. 

The technique offers promise that one day researchers will be able to identify a more exact starting point for the development of cancers, coronary disease or even osteoporosis. “Using light, we can measure cells inside tissue and we can look inside the cells to distinguish, for example, the properties of the nucleus and cytoplasm,” said team lead Giuliano Scarcelli, assistant professor with UMD’s Fischell Department of Bioengineering.

The team of researchers from UMD, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Massachusetts General Hospital published their work this week in Nature Methods.

Scientists need a clearer look at how properties of cells change over time, both to learn more about factors that influence everyday biological functions of cells and to better understand how diseases develop. 

Every cell contains a cytoplasm – the thick solution enclosed within the cell by the cell membrane. Primarily composed of water, salts, and proteins, the cytoplasm is where most cellular activities occur. Even more, the cytoplasm serves as a means of transport for genetic material and acts as a buffer, protecting the cell’s genetic material from damage due to movement or collision with other cells. 

For years, researchers have known that the interaction between the liquid and solid phases within the cytoplasm plays a prominent role in how cells deform and move. As such, the ability to map the hydro-mechanical properties of cells – such as viscoelasticity and compressibility – is critical to advancing understanding of how cell properties change as a symptom of disease in the body or as part of normal biological functions, such as when wounds heal.

Traditionally, techniques used to study the mechanical properties of cells have either required contact with cells or have produced images with limited resolution. As a result, information on the biomechanical properties of cells in 3-D environments is lacking. 

“Gold-standard techniques require contact, therefore they are inherently limited to providing global averages of cell properties and to experimental situations where you have physical access to the cell,” Scarcelli said. 

To address this, Scarcelli and colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Massachusetts General Hospital have introduced a technique known as Brillouin optical cell microscopy for noninvasive, 3-D mapping of intracellular and extracellular hydro-mechanical properties. Their technique employs Brillouin light scattering, a process that occurs when light interacts with density fluctuations in a medium. These spontaneous fluctuations are driven by collective acoustic vibrational modes, known as phonons, in the gigahertz frequency range. In this way, Brillouin microscopy yields invaluable information on the viscoelastic characteristics of cells – and does so at a microscopic resolution no other technique can match.

As such, Brillouin microscopy opens up new research avenues for the biomechanical investigation of cells and their microenvironment in 3-D at subcellular resolution. 

Continuing in collaboration with Roger Kamm at MIT, the research team is now taking advantage of the unique capabilities of Brillouin microscopy to look at a crucial property of metastatic cells – their ability to modulate their internal mechanical properties to enter and exit blood vessels to colonize distant sites. The team’s efforts recently earned them a five-year, $3 million National Institutes of Health grant to study tumor cell extravasation. 

Along with Scarcelli and Kamm, William J. Polacheck, Hadi T. Nia, and Alan J. Grodzinsky of MIT, Kripa Patel of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Wellman Center for Photomedicine, and Seok-Hyun Yun of the Wellman Center and Harvard Medical School co-authored the Nature Methods paper titled, “Noncontact three-dimensional mapping of intracellular hydro-mechanical properties by Brillouin microscopy.”

At UMD Scarcelli specializes in biophotonics with strong emphasis on optical sciences and technology development. Prior to joining the Fischell Department of Bioengineering, he served as an instructor with the Harvard Medical School and Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is the inventor in four patents, all licensed to industry, and his work with Brillouin microscopy earned him the Tosteson Postdoctoral Fellowship Award, a NIH K25 Career Development Award, and a Young Investigator Award from the Human Frontier Science Program. 

UMD Libraries Celebrate Contributions to Chronicling America's 10 Million Pages

October 7, 2015

Eric Bartheld 301-314-0964 

Free, searchable database of historic newspapers reflects Maryland’s history

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland Libraries joins the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities in celebrating a major milestone for Chronicling America, a free, searchable database of historic U.S. newspapers. The Library of Congress announced that more than 10 million pages have been posted to the site. This number includes contributions from the University of Maryland of tens of thousands of pages from 11 Maryland newspapers, with 10 more titles to be added by the end of 2016.

Launched by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in 2007, Chronicling America provides enhanced and permanent access to historically significant newspapers published in the United States between 1836 and 1922. It is part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), a joint effort between the two agencies and partners in 40 states and territories. 

The NDNP awards grants to entities in each state and territory to identify and digitize historic newspaper content. Awardees receive NEH funding to select and digitize 100,000 pages of historic newspapers published in their states between 1836 and 1922. Uniform technical specifications are provided to ensure consistency of all content, and digital files are transferred to the Library of Congress for long-term management and access. The first awards were made in 2005. Since then, NEH has awarded more than $30 million in support of the project.

The University of Maryland Libraries was awarded its first NDNP grant of $325,000 in 2012 to launch the Historic Maryland Newspapers Project. In the first two years of the project, 107,414 pages were digitized and made available in Chronicling America, the majority from a Baltimore paper written for an audience of German immigrants called Der Deutsche Correspondent. The project also included English newspapers published in Cumberland, Hagerstown and Baltimore. The second grant of $290,000, currently underway, was awarded in 2014. It will be used to digitize newspapers from Elkton, Leonardtown, Thurmont, Rockville, and more.

“This project demonstrates in a very real way how technology can help Maryland citizens and others learn about Maryland history,” says Babak Hamidzadeh, Interim Dean of Libraries and Associate Dean of Digital Systems and Stewardship of the University of Maryland Libraries. “But it also demonstrates our growing expertise in applying technology to create new and better ways to discover information.”

UMD Researchers Define & Measure Planet's Total Forest Area

October 6, 2015

Laura Ours 301-405-5722

COLLEGE PARK, Md.  – A University of Maryland research team is the first to compare eight global, satellite-based maps to determine the planet’s total forest area, and the information gaps they uncovered were surprising.

“We were amazed to find that the results varied by an area equaling 12 percent of Earth’s land surface—that’s half as large as the United States. That’s a lot of missing trees,” said Joseph Sexton, geographical sciences associate research professor at UMD and the study’s lead author.

Conservation policy and the measurement of forests” appears in Nature Climate Change. The report was coauthored by Sexton and scientists at the University of Maryland’s Global Land Cover Facility, the National Wildlife Federation, the Global Environment Facility and Duke University.

The researchers also discovered that the disputed areas coincide with 45 billion tons of biomass valued at $1 trillion. Given the importance of quantifying forest cover to international climate negotiations, they wondered how such a wide variance could exist among scientific estimates.

“The difference originates not so much in our technical ability to measure the forests as it does in the way we define them,” Sexton said.

Measurement uncertainties remain in many challenging areas—especially those perennially obscured by clouds. But citing technological advances led by the NASA Earth Science Program, the authors note that this imprecision will shrink over time by “an increasing breadth of sensors providing greater temporal frequency, more accurate reference measurements, and better penetration of clouds.”

The eight datasets each reported a high level of precision, so next the authors checked their most fundamental assumption—what it means to be a forest. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—the international body responsible for climate governance—allows countries to define forests as parcels of land exceeding a threshold of tree cover, measured as a percentage. The team applied this range of thresholds to the world’s first global, high-resolution dataset of tree cover. Differences resulting from the definitions were concentrated in the planet’s sparse forests, shrub lands and savannahs, and they coincide precisely with uncertainty among the independent sources. 

“This was no mere academic dispute. This failure to communicate covers a huge expanse of the terrestrial biosphere,” said coauthor Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke. The various datasets had been using different definitions. Each was aiming precisely, but at a different target.

Led by the NASA Earth Science program, a fleet of Earth-imaging satellites now stream terabytes of data daily to ecologists, hydrologists, climatologists, and economists who use the data to study the global ecosystem. The American satellites are increasingly being joined by sensors launched by European, Chinese, and other nations’ space agencies. Even private companies, from Google to “microsatellite” tech startups, have joined the effort. 

With the problem identified and mapped, the scientists offer a solution. 

“We [the science and policy communities] must refine our focus from the abstract concept of forests toward the ecological attributes used to define them,” Sexton said. “To understand the forces impacting forests globally, and to sustain the services they provide, science and policy must now communicate in more measurable terms. Our language has to keep pace with the science.” 

UMD to Host Inaugural Terp Farm Fall Harvest Festival

October 6, 2015

Allison Lilly 301-314-1016

Fall-themed event to highlight collaborative project combining sustainability and local food

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland will host the inaugural Terp Farm Fall Harvest Festival on Friday, October 9, 2015 at Terp Farm, a collaborative project between UMD Dining Services, the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources and the Office of Sustainability

Terp Farm is housed at UMD’s Upper Marlboro agriculture research facility located 15 miles south of College Park, Md. Each week, several hundred pounds of vegetables are harvested from Terp Farm and transported to campus to be served in select dining halls and on the Green Tidings mobile dining food truck. Produce from Terp Farm is also donated to food-insecure members of the campus through the Campus Pantry program and nearby communities.

“We are so excited to invite the university community out to Terp Farm for our first Fall Harvest Festival so they can see first-hand how we are producing fresh, sustainable, local food for Terps on campus,” said Allison Lilly, Sustainability & Wellness Coordinator for Dining Services and manager of Terp Farm. “It’s Terps growing food for other Terps and that is certainly worth celebrating.”

This fall-themed event will feature food from Green Tidings Mobile Dining made with fresh ingredients produced at Terp Farm, a live performance from Hayley Fahey & Numbering Sundays, farm tours, pumpkin decorating, and information tables and activities provided by the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources.

UMD faculty, staff and students are invited to attend the Terp Farm Fall Harvest Festival on Friday, October 9th from 2 to 5 p.m. Free transportation to and from Terp Farm will be provided on the day of the festival. Shuttles provided by the Department of Transportation Services will be leaving from the side of The Stamp Student Union at Union Lane every half hour from 1:30 until 4:30 and returning from the farm every half hour from 2:15 until 5:15. 

The address is 2005 Largo Road, Upper Marlboro, MD 20744. Free parking will be available at the farm.  

Please visit the Terp Farm Fall Harvest Festival event page for additional information. To learn more about Terp Farm, watch a vignette produced by the Big Ten Network.

UMD Researchers Explore the Science of Retweets

October 5, 2015

Greg Muraski 301-405-5283

COLLEGE PARK, Md.  – What's the best time to tweet, to ensure maximum audience engagement? Researchers at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business have demonstrated that an algorithm that takes into account the past activity of each of your followers — and makes predictions about future tweeting — can lead to more “retweets” than other commonly used methods, such as posting at peak traffic times.

The internet is full of advice about when to tweet to gain maximum exposure, but the new study subjects marketing folk wisdom to scientific scrutiny.

William Rand, director of the Center for Complexity in Business in UMD’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, with co-authors from the departments of scientific computation and physics, examined the retweeting patterns of 15,000 Twitter followers during two different five week intervals, in 2011 and 2012, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Retweets are especially valuable to marketers because they help to spread a brand's message beyond core followers.

Most marketers are well aware there's a pattern to Twitter traffic. In the early morning, nothing much happens. Then people get into work and retweet intensely, as they do their morning surfing. The number of retweets drops as the day progresses, with a slight uptick at 5 p.m. Then it picks up again later “when people get back to their computers after dinner, or are out at a bar or restaurant using their phones,” as Rand puts it. Monday through Friday follow roughly that pattern, but Saturday and Sunday show markedly different behavior, with much smaller morning spikes and less decline during the day.

A “seasonal” model of posting — the folk-wisdom model — would suggest posting whenever there are peaks in that recurring weekly pattern. (Which peaks you choose would depend how many tweets you expect to send.)

The authors compared that model to two others: The first added to the seasonal model a component that looked for unusual surges and declines (caused by, say, big news events) and adjusted posting patterns correspondingly. They built the final model from scratch: It took into account the individual tweeting behavior of each follower and predicted his or her likelihood of tweeting in the next 10 minutes.

The authors first had to write software that collected the tweets. For each five-week period studied, the authors used the first four weeks to build a model and the final week for testing it, by tweeting and watching what happened.

All three models were reasonably effective, but the algorithm that the authors wrote, which took each individual’s behavior into account, was the most successful at generating retweets. The paper serves as a demonstration that applying analytic methods to Twitter data can improve a brand’s ability to spread its message. The authors made the open-source software developed for the study available online.

"Forecasting High Tide: Predicting Times of Elevated Activity in Online Social Media," by Jimpei Harada (Center for Complexity in Business, Robert H. Smith School of Business); David Darmon (applied mathematics and scientific calulation, University of Maryland); Michelle Girvan (physics, University of Maryland); and William Rand (Center for Complexity in Business), will be published in the Proceedings of Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining (ASONAM).


October 9
The first African American to obtain a graduate degree at UMD to be honored, according to Board of Regents vote today. Read
October 9
Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew will visit UMD for a town hall style conversation with students on currency redesign... Read
October 8
Lewis Carroll collectors and University Libraries team up for a “mad” exhibit.  Read
October 8
UMD named top 50 global university by U.S. News & World Report.  Read