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UMD Team Again Wins National Affordable Housing Design Competition

April 22, 2019
Contacts: 

Maria Day-Marshall  301-405-6795, Lee Tune 301-405-4679

 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – For the second year in a row, a team of graduate students from the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation has won the Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). UMD teams finished first last year and second in 2016, their only two previous entries in the 6-year-old competition.

This year the University of Maryland team took first place and the $20,000 top prize with its design for Brooklyn Bend, a mixed-use housing and retail development for low- and moderate-income residents located along San Antonio’s Riverwalk. Results were announced Wednesday. Defending champion Maryland beat out more than 70 other teams, including the other three finalists, second place University of California, Berkeley, and runners-up Yale University and Virginia Tech.

Judges cited the team’s well-developed financial package and understanding of the concepts behind the proposal, and commended the project for having the highest population density among the four finalists. The design, which fronts the San Antonio River, emphasizes energy efficiency, water pollution control and promotion of healthy lifestyles.

Instead of a layout that included just one or two large buildings, the team designed a village-like development with a variety of housing unit designs and sizes to meet a wide range of needs, said Kyle Huck (dual master’s degree program in architecture and real estate development).

“All the proposals were unique in their own ways, but I think what set ours apart was that we really tried to use the site to its highest and best use,” he said, “and not just meet the requirements but to use the site as appropriately as possible to create a proposal that was more dense, which results in a greater amount of affordable housing.”

“We have a lot of dual degrees on our team,” said Cassandra Huntington (dual master’s degree program in architecture and real estate development). “The fact that we have the real estate development degree in addition to the architecture degree gives us a leg up on most of the competition, because we have a better understanding of both the design and the finance sides.”

In addition to graduate students Huck and Huntington, other members of the team are:  Lauren Stamm (master’s degree program in community planning); Andrew Mazer (master’s degree program in architecture); and Nyasha Mandima (master’s degree program in real estate development). The team’s advisors are Maria Day-Marshall, director of UMD’s Real Estate Development Program. and Rob McClennan, senior project manager, Bonstra | Haresign Architects, AIA, and UMD adjunct professor.

Donald Linebaugh, interim dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, said the Maryland team's design demonstrated the strengths of the school's interdisciplinary approach.

"Their winning submission was a thoughtful and nuanced response to a challenging site along San Antonio's Riverwalk," said Donald Linebaugh, interim dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. "They drew on their strengths in design, planning, and real estate finance to craft a project that put people and community first, activating the site and delivering a safe, affordable, and beautiful housing solution."

"With 12 dual degree programs in our School," explained Linebaugh, "MAPP+D is a national leader in interdisciplinary graduate education. And the students' innovative winning submission, clearly demonstrates the strengths of our interdisciplinary approach to the built environment."  

The San Antonio Housing Authority board, which is looking to redevelop the site, will review the winning proposal in coming months.

According to HUD, “the need for quality, affordable housing has never been greater,” and its affordable housing competition is intended to “advance the design and production of livable and sustainable housing for low- and moderate-income people through research and innovation.”

 

“When it comes to creating innovative affordable housing, HUD does not do this work alone,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. “Congratulations to the University of Maryland and all of our finalists, for their consciousness stream of good ideas that increases housing opportunity for Americans with modest incomes.”

University of Maryland Statement Against Hate and Bias

November 5, 2017
Contacts: 

 Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

 
Statement Against Hate and Bias 
Joel Seligman, AVP for Communications and Marketing - November 5, 2017
 

UMD sincerely regrets the overwhelming misunderstanding resulting in the #UMDNotAHome social media conversation. The statements on social media connected to this hashtag do not reflect the positions of the university or our leaders' mutual commitment to diversity and inclusion on campus and across our nation.

To put it plainly, the UMD administration stands against hate and bias in all of its forms and wants every Terp to feel welcome, safe and at home at the University of Maryland. 

In recent months, there have been instances of intentional provocation by hateful, far-right groups spreading targeted messages that the administration finds despicable. These outside agitators want to divide our campus community into factions that are in conflict with one another from within UMD, rather than see our campus stand together in opposition to the broader forces of hate, white supremacy, anti-immigrant xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia and anti-semitism. 

It is understandable that some members of our community are also disturbed by remarks by university officials, even when the comments are quoted entirely out of context and in a manner that misrepresents the meaning. UMD has seen an example of one of our longtime colleagues unfairly criticized for her efforts to provide legal advice to the University Senate Campus Affairs Committee literally at the same time she is working to advance the cause of inclusion.

The administration encourages all members of our community to work together—students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni—to increase respect, inclusiveness, and cohesiveness on our campus. A comprehensive list of efforts underway by UMD administration is available at umd.edu/umdreflects 

 

 

UMD Named a 2017 Best College by MONEY Magazine

July 12, 2017
Contacts: 

Jennifer Burroughs, 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md.  The University of Maryland ranked No. 11 among public universities according to MONEY Magazine’s 2017 list of Best Colleges. UMD ranked No. 20 overall among U.S. institutions. 

To calculate rankings, MONEY assessed more than 700 colleges in the U.S. based on three equally-weighted categories, including educational quality, affordability and alumni success. MONEY measured 27 factors within these categories covering areas such as instructor quality, measuring the study-to-faculty ratio, affordability for low-income students and value-added earnings, which measures if the school is launching students to better paying jobs. 

Earlier this year, UMD was also ranked a Best Value College by ForbesPrinceton Review and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

UMD Capitol Hill Forum Addresses Health Disparities Research & Action for Equity

September 23, 2016
Contacts: 

Contacts: Elise Carbonaro, 301-405-6501

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland, in collaboration with Rep. John P. Sarbanes and the Big Ten Academic Alliance, recently convened more than 100 people for a Research on the Hill forum focused on strategies to achieve health equity at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. Moderated by Stephen B. Thomas, Ph.D., professor and director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity in the UMD School of Public Health, the panel discussion engaged experts from academia, federal health agencies and the private business sector in a candid conversation about how to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities among vulnerable populations.

“Our exploratory research holds the solutions to many of the most challenging problems of our day,” said UMD Vice President and Chief Research Officer Patrick G. O’Shea, Ph.D. “As a university, it is our mission to create and understand knowledge to develop better ways to house and heal and fuel and feed our people in advanced societies that are just, secure, and free. Achieving health equity touches on the ‘heal’ aspect of that mission.”

The topics ranged from the progress that has been made in access to medical care as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to challenges that still remain in improving quality of care and in making the medical care system incorporate public health and address the social determinants of health that prevent people from acting health promotion and disease prevention recommendations. 

“The state of Maryland has embraced the ACA and there is clear evidence that the new incentives are indeed moving hospital systems away from a fee-for-service business model to one that rewards quality care and positive health outcomes over the volume of procedures,” said Thomas. “While the transition is not perfect, our state is a national leader for what the future of health care will look like.”

Panel members shared examples of effective and innovative community-based health interventions and public-private partnerships that are making a difference through culturally-tailored health promotion and disease prevention services, and highlighted the emergence of social determinants of health such as poverty, discrimination and residential segregation as factors that must be overcome.

 “I’m convinced that if you address racial and ethnic disparities with respect to the delivery of health care and health care coverage in this country, you will build the best health care system we can possibly have because diversity is our country’s hallmark,” said Congressman Sarbanes, who, as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has been a tireless advocate for improving healthcare quality and addressing health disparities.
 
To achieve health equity, researchers, policymakers, and industry leaders must address broader issues beyond the traditional biomedical model and build trust between those who control health care delivery system and those who have lost hope in the system, said members of the panel. 

The panelists recommended that health equity be incorporated into all public policies, not just those related to health care, to reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities. 

Panel members included:

  • Margo Edmunds, Ph.D., Vice President, Evidence Generation and Translation at Academy Health;
  • J. Nadine Gracia, M.D., M.S.C.E., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Director of the Office of Minority Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services;
  • Julia Huggins, President of Cigna Mid-Atlantic;
  • Kolawole Okuyemi, M.D., MPH, Professor of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Director of the Program in Health Disparities Research and Inaugural Endowed Chair for Health Equity at the University of Minnesota; and
  • Eliseo Pérez-Stable, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health.

House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, who represents Maryland’s 5th Congressional District and is a distinguished UMD alumnus, also joined the event and emphasized that as an interconnected community, we should all care about health disparities.
 
“It is unacceptable that in the United States, where all are created equal in the words of our Declaration of Independence, that one’s access to healthcare may be higher or lower as a result of race, gender, or income,” said Congressman Hoyer. “Everybody being healthy is of concern to each and every one of us.”
 
He discussed how we must continue to defend the patient protections that Americans are benefiting from thanks to the ACA, such as the no-cost access to preventive services like mammograms and immunizations, as well as remind people of the dramatic increase in the number of people, particularly people of color, who now have health coverage as a result.

The event was held as part of the University of Maryland’s Research on the Hill series, which is aimed at raising awareness of research with great societal significance.

View the conversation at: https://youtu.be/HPedKr0jZLQ

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

May 6, 2015
Contacts: 

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
Contacts: 

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.

UMD and The Phillips Collection present International Forum in Washington

October 18, 2019
Contacts: 

Hayley Barton hbarton@phillipscollection.org 202-387-2151

Alana Carchedi Coyle acarched@umd.edu 301-405-0235

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Academic and artistic partners The Phillips Collection and the University of Maryland (UMD) will present the International Forum in Washington on Thursday, November 14, 2019, 7 pm, highlighting a weekend of programming and outreach to commemorate Veterans Day and our nation’s veterans. 

 

The Phillips Collection’s annual International Forum stems from the institution’s aim to catalyze global conversations through the language of modern art, a central unifying theme of the museum’s programming and exhibitions. These conversations deliberately stretch beyond the walls of the museum to consider urgent issues of our time—from racial identity, philanthropic impact, and climate change. This year’s program, aligned with a key institutional theme of art and wellness, brings together medical experts, veterans, academics, and artists to discuss the impact that art and art therapies can have on the lives of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other physical or psychological health conditions.

The program will include presentations by Jane Chu, Art Advisor for PBS, in conversation with Capt. Sara Kass, MD, Military and Medical Advisor, Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network. Also joining the conversation will be veterans Army Sgt. Zach Herrick, founder of American Heroes HeART and Ben King, founder of Armor Down. 

“Creating dialogue around issues that impact our nation is a theme that runs deep within our mission, along with providing a platform for visitors to have meaningful and compelling experiences. This year’s International Forum aims to generate conversations around these topics and reflect our gratitude to the members of our armed forces for their service,” said Vradenburg Director and CEO Dorothy Kosinski.

"Conditions facing veterans like post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are often studied and highlighted within science and medical disciplines. This year's International Forum is taking an innovative approach by bringing together experts from all fields–medicine, academia, arts, and veterans themselves–to engage in challenging conversations about these important topics," said UMD Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin

ABOUT JANE CHU

Jane Chu was the 11th chairperson for the National Endowment for the Arts and now serves as the Arts Advisor for PBS. During her four years at the NEA, she managed grants on local and state levels and the agency awarded $430 million over her tenure. She helped grow the NEA’s Creative Forces Military Healing Arts Network. Previously she worked at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Union Station Kansas City, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, and the Kauffman Fund.

 

ABOUT SARA KASS

Sara Kass is Creative Force’s Senior Military and Medical Advisor. Dr. Kass retired from the Navy in March 2015 after serving as the Deputy Commander of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at Walter Reed Medical Center. While serving at NICoE, she witnessed the healing power of the arts. Driven to increase access to these powerful services for military members and veterans as well as enhance research to understand their impact, Dr. Kass partnered with the NEA to develop and implement Creative Forces.  Today she remains a strong advocate and leader for the initiative.

ABOUT ZACH HERRICK

Zach Herrick is a veteran, advocate, public speaker, and artist who has earned a Purple Heart. Shortly after joining the US Army and three months into his deployment in Afghanistan, his platoon was ambushed; amid the attack, Herrick was shot in the face. During his rehabilitation at Walter Reed Medical Center he used art to recover and heal from his trauma. Herrick now uses his artistic knowledge and passion to help other combat-wounded men and women reframe trauma through the act of creating art with his foundation American Heroes HeART. 

 

ABOUT BEN KING

Ben King is a public speaker, community organizer, and veteran. After serving in Iraq as an Army Psychological Operations Team Leader, he founded Armor Down to help returning soldiers reintegrate into civilian life. He is the Senior Vice Commander for the Virginia Department of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and for six consecutive years has led Mindful Memorial Day at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery honoring post 9/11 fallen service members. He is also a contributing author in numerous books and publications including National Geographic. King earned a Purple Heart and the Meritus Military Service Medal during the Iraq War.

 

THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION AND THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND PARTNERSHIP

The Phillips Collection and the University of Maryland partnership aims to dramatically transform scholarship and innovation in the arts. Together, the Phillips will expand its education programs, and reach new and diverse audiences while UMD will grow its established scholarship and academic programs within the arts and provide unparalleled research and education opportunities for UMD faculty and students.

Admission for the event is $12; free for students and Phillips members. Tickets for the event can be purchased at https://www.phillipscollection.org/events/2019-11-14-international-forum 

ABOUT THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION

The Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of Modern art, presents one of the world’s most distinguished Impressionist and American Modern art collections. Including paintings by Renoir and Rothko, Bonnard and O'Keeffe, van Gogh, Diebenkorn, Daumier and Lawrence, among others, the museum continues to actively collect new acquisitions, many by contemporary artists such as Wolfgang Laib, Whitfield Lovell, Zilia Sánchez, and Leo Villareal. Its distinctive building combines extensive new galleries with the former home of its founder, Duncan Phillips. The Phillips’s impact spreads nationally and internationally through its highly distinguished special exhibitions, programs, and events that catalyze dialogue surrounding the continuity between art of the past and the present. Among the Phillips’s esteemed programs are its award-winning education programs for educators, students, and adults; well-established Phillips Music series; and sell-out Phillips after 5 events. The museum contributes to the art conversation on a global scale with events like Conversations with Artists and the International Forum. The Phillips Collection values its community partnerships with the University of Maryland—the museum’s nexus for academic work, scholarly exchange, and interdisciplinary collaborations—and THEARC—the museum’s new campus serving the Southeast DC community. The Phillips Collection is a private, non-government museum, supported primarily by donations. 

ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND

The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and 280 academic programs. As one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright scholars, its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners and 58 members of the national academies. The institution has a $2.1 billion operating budget and secures $514 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit www.umd.edu.

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NIH Awards UMD $1.67M for Research on Reducing Bias and Promoting Diverse Friendships in Childhood

October 16, 2019
Contacts: 

Audrey Hill, audreyh@umd.edu 301-405-3468

COLLEGE PARK, MD—A $1.67 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will support University of Maryland College of Education research that promotes children’s friendships across different backgrounds and aims to reduce prejudice in childhood.  

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development award will fund research to evaluate the effectiveness of a classroom program comparing whether participants hold fewer gender, racial and ethnic stereotypes, more cross-group friendships and a greater sense of school belonging than children in the control group. 

The four-year study will address issues of equity, fairness and mutual respect in peer relationships, and aims to foster positive classroom environments that stimulate academic learning and achievement in schools, with inclusivity among children playing a key role.

“This is a very timely issue right now in our culture and country,” said Melanie Killen, a professor in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology and the project lead. “There are tensions and crises about inclusion and exclusion based on race, ethnicity and immigrant status, to name a few. Stereotypes are deeply entrenched by adulthood. The time for intervention is in childhood.”

Previous research has shown that social segregation has long-term detrimental effects on children’s physical, emotional and academic development. The “Developing Inclusive Youth” project, which includes Tracy Sweet, associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, is rooted in a three-year study funded by the National Science Foundation and led by Killen and Laura Stapleton, professor and associate dean of the college.

The research team’s in-classroom intervention program has students in grades 3–5 view a series of online, animated scenarios about peer social encounters. The first session, for instance, involves characters deciding whether to include a “new kid” in playing at recess; other scenarios include social interactions at a birthday party or in a science classroom that involve exclusion based on gender, race, ethnicity, immigrant status and wealth status.

Students are then asked to assess how they think the characters in the scenarios feel, evaluate decisions of peer inclusion or exclusion, and choose how they think the characters should react in the situation. Teachers, trained by the researchers, then facilitate classroom discussion about inclusivity based on the animated scenario. The discussion often results in students relating the scenario to real-life situations, Killen said.

“The science scenario, where a girl is excluded from a group project, came up in the classroom discussion and led one girl to tell the others that it was similar to when she wasn’t allowed to play soccer with the boys at recess. The boys said, ‘We didn’t know you wanted to play,’ and then publicly stated [in the classroom] that they’re going to help her. That’s a way to change norms and expectations,” she said.

The NIH grant will expand the “Developing Inclusive Youth” project beyond the feasibility study of 400 students in Montgomery County, Maryland, to additional schools in its public school system; the project has received interest from school systems in other states and countries as well. 

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University of Maryland Statement on Amicus Brief in Support of DACA - October 11, 2019

October 11, 2019
Contacts: 

Hafsa Siddiqi, hafsa@umd.edu, 301-405-4671

The University of Maryland has joined 164 colleges and universities across the nation to support a legal challenge to rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Filed in federal court last week and coordinated by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, the amicus brief seeks to advocate for the rights of roughly 700,000 young immigrants to study and work in the United States under legal protection. The brief further argues that revoking DACA status for the thousands of students across private, public and community institutions is not only unethical but unconstitutional. 

 

“As institutions of higher education, we see every day the achievement and potential of these young people, and we think it imperative for both us and them that they be allowed to remain here and live out their dreams,” wrote the signatories in the brief. “Once at college or university, DACA recipients are among the most engaged students both academically and otherwise. They work hard in the classroom and become deeply engaged in co-curricular activities, supporting communities on and off-campus. Indeed, it defies rationality to prevent the government from utilizing its discretion to protect this set of young people from removal.” 

 

On Nov. 12, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on a series of consolidated cases and determine whether the administration’s rescission of DACA was lawful.

 

DACA recipients help build and nourish Maryland’s robust community, from their academic excellence in research and science to their entrepreneurial and industrial spirit through business and the arts. The university will continue to identify avenues for offering support to our DACA students and advocate for a restoration of their legal protections.  

UMD Researchers Discover New Mechanism in Liver that Helps Prevent Infections

October 9, 2019
Contacts: 
Samantha Watters 301-405-2434, Leon Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- A UMD team of researchers has made a breakthrough in understanding how our immune system deals with invasive fungal infections that are a major health threat, particularly to people who are immuno-compromized. Led by Meiqing Shi, associate professor with the University of Maryland Department of Veterinary Medicine, the researchers discovered a pathway in the liver by which immune system cells called macrophages capture  and “eat” fungi before the fungi spread to target organs like the brain and kidney. 

This pathway explains why individuals with liver disease have enhanced risk of fungal infection, and also points to possible new therapeutic options for preventing these infections, which annually kill some 1.5 million people.

“Under intravital microscopy [a  tool to study cell biology in living animals], we can directly see how the KCs catch fungi in real time,” said Shi. KCs (Kupffer cells) are liver-resident macrophages that constitute some 90 percent of the total tissue macrophages in the body.

“This is a protective mechanism that is working once the fungus becomes invasive, or gets into the bloodstream, to prevent it from spreading. Stopping the dissemination process throughout the body is so important, because once you get dissemination, you get the disease, Shi said. “These findings suggest therapeutic strategies for preventing dissemination, and this could be applied across many types of fungal infections, since they work in similar ways.”

Fungal infections affect 1.2 billion people globally each year. In the current paper, Shi and colleagues specifically examined two types of fungi - Cryptococcus neoformans and Candida albicans. Both of these fungi, if disseminated to their target organs (the brain for Cryptococcus and the kidney for Candida), are fatal infections that are very difficult to treat once contracted. Cryptococcus, for example, is the main cause of meningitis. Each year, more than a million people are infected and contract meningitis, and 60 percent of these will die from the disease. HIV infection is the main risk factor for cryptococcal meningoencephalitis, but the use of immunosuppressive drugs also increases patient susceptibility.

“Cryptococcus and Candida are fungi that are actually everywhere,” says Shi. “People with healthy immune systems can usually control the fungi after infection, but once it gets into the bloodstream, either one of these fungi can get into the target organs and become fatal. For Cryptococcus, this is especially a problem for those with impaired immune systems, like HIV patients or organ transplant patients. Patients with liver disease are also more prone to Cryptococcus infection, and no one understood why before.” 

This new discovery that liver macrophages (KCs) are responsible for catching free fungi in the bloodstream to prevent further dissemination helps explain this phenomenon, since if the liver is impaired as it is in patients with liver disease, it would stand to reason that this protective mechanism would also be impaired. 

“This finding is very interesting and very unusual, because in the field of fungal infections, nobody focuses on the liver,” says Shi. “Researchers tend to look at the target organs like the brain or kidney. The liver is not a target organ, but it tries to clean out the fungus in the bloodstream. As the whole body is connected, this paper gives a more whole system approach to how fungal dissemination interacts in the entire body.”

With this whole body approach in mind, the discovery of this mechanism has implications not just for those with liver disease, but for the treatment of fungal infections as a whole by targeting this mechanism, preventing fungal dissemination, and treating invasive fungal infections. 

The paper, entitled “Fungal dissemination is limited by liver macrophage filtration of the blood,” is published in Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-12381-5

This work is funded by the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, grant AI131219. 

Pages

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October 11
New finding is the latest of many discoveries led by UMD Professor Iqbal Hamza who is unraveling the mystery of heme, a... Read
October 18
A weekend of programming and outreach commemorating Veterans Day and the nation's veterans will kick-off on November 14 Read
October 16
UMD College of Education will conduct a 4-year study analyzing equity, fairness and mutual respect in peer relationships Read