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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.

New Method Enables Creation of Better Therapeutic Antibodies

March 27, 2017
Contacts: 

Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- Antibodies are the foot soldiers of our immune system. These specialized, Y-shaped proteins attach to bacteria and viruses, where they either block the pathogen’s activity directly, or signal the immune system’s cells to destroy the invader.  Not all antibodies are created equal, however. Due to subtle but important differences in the structure of their sugar groups, two otherwise identical antibodies that attack the same invader might not be equally good at recruiting immune cells to finish the job. Researchers from the University of Maryland and Rockefeller University have previously developed a method to modify an antibody’s sugar group structure, allowing biochemists to create antibodies with consistent sugar groups.

Photo of antibodies with identical protein structureThe researchers have now taken their method a step further, by determining which specific sugar combinations enhance—or suppress—an antibody’s ability to signal the immune system to attack an invader. Lai-Xi Wang, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UMD, states results, which are published in the March 13, 2017 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are an important step toward the development of highly effective antibodies to fight cancer and other diseases.

Antibodies have the ability to target invaders for destruction, making them a tempting target for cancer and disease therapies. An antibody’s ability to send killer signals depends on the configuration of sugar chains attached to the protein. In naturally occurring antibodies, these sugar chains have a lot of variability. Even in antibodies currently used for disease therapy, a given dose might contain a wide variety of antibody variants, also known as “glycoforms,” distinguished by their sugar groups.

Although prior methods tried to sort out these glycoforms and collect the most effective ones, these methods are time-consuming, expensive and not 100 percent effective. The method used in the current study enables the researchers to create a given antibody with identical glycoforms using biochemical techniques. Each glycoform can then be tested independently to see whether it enhances or suppresses the immune response.

“Our first major step forward was to develop a method to produce homogeneous glycoforms,” said Wang. “With this, we can now look at how individual different sugars affect the properties of antibodies. Until this study, we didn’t have an efficient way to know how individual sugars in various glycoforms affect suppression or activation of the immune response.”

Most therapeutic antibodies on the market are designed to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases. For example, there is an antibody-based drug used to treat lymphoma, leukemia and rheumatoid arthritis. This and other similar antibody drugs are usually produced in cultured cell lines.

“These processes are not optimized at all. There is no easy way to control glycosylation,” Wang said. Glycosylation is the process by which sugar groups are added to a protein such as an antibody. “Our method could be used to improve antibodies already on the market because it modifies the antibodies directly instead of working at the genetic level.”

Wang’s group, which specializes in the biochemistry of protein glycosylation, developed the methodology to modify the antibody sugar groups. They partnered with Jeffrey Ravetch’s group at Rockefeller University, which specializes in immunology and animal models, to test the effects of various glycoforms on the immune response. The new findings can help guide the development of future antibody-based therapeutics.

“Our method would be generally applicable because it can be used on a wide variety of antibodies,” Wang said. “It’s an important step forward in the effort to engineer therapeutic antibodies that can target specific cancers, inflammation and other diseases. Soon we will be able to build customized antibodies.”


Photo: Antibodies with identical protein structures (Y-shaped center structures) often have naturally occurring differences in their attached sugar groups (left, inside green ovals). These differences result in enhanced or suppressed abilities to activate the immune response. A process designed at the University of Maryland and tested with help from Rockefeller University allows the engineering of antibodies with identical sugar groups (right, inside pink ovals), which can standardize the activity of the antibodies. Photo credit: Tiezheng Li/Lai-Xi Wang/UMD.

 

Washington Post–UMD Poll Shows Decline in Hogan’s Popularity

March 24, 2017
Contacts: 

Laura Ours, 301-405-5722

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - While Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has been a popular governor since he first took office in 2015, a recent Washington Post–University of Maryland poll finds that his approval rating has slipped over the past six months.

Hogan’s job-approval rating in September was 71 percent; this latest poll shows Hogan holding a 65 percent job-approval rating. While this is a decline, Hogan’s approval still remains the highest in Post polls for each of the state’s three previous governors, who were affiliated with both parties.

Photo of Gov. HoganAmong the full sample of respondents, 39 percent said they would support Hogan for reelection in 2018, while 36 percent said they would prefer a Democrat. Among registered voters, 41 percent said they support Hogan for reelection, and 37 percent said they would prefer a Democrat. 

The researchers say the poll results underscore Hogan’s challenge as a Republican governor leading a state that went for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in September. 

“Even with such high approval ratings, he’s at risk of suffering from what’s going on with the Republican Party,” said Associate Professor Michael Hanmer, research director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship (CAPC). “His reelection is going to depend on who the Democrats put forward and how much they can attach Hogan to what’s going on in national politics.”

No Democrats have formally declared intention to run for Maryland governor in 2018.

“The election is still a long way off, but I think what happens in national politics and how Governor Hogan does or does not respond is going to matter. In a state with so many more Democrats than Republicans, a general backlash against the Republican Party could propel a Democrat over Governor Hogan, even if his approval rating remains high. This is going to remain very interesting to follow,” Hanmer said.

Read Washington Post Coverage

View Poll Results

About the Poll

This seventh iteration of The Washington Post–University of Maryland poll was conducted by telephone March 16-19, among a random sample of 914 adult residents of Maryland.

Interviews were conducted by live interviewers on both conventional and cellular phones; interviews were conducted in English and in Spanish. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points. Sampling, data collection and tabulation were conducted by Abt-SRBI, Inc. of New York, NY.

The University of Maryland and The Washington Post first teamed up to present the poll in October 2014. Polls have focused on Maryland elections, national elections, desired priorities for elected officials and topics of interest to voters including immigration, taxes, education and healthcare.

The partnership combines the world-class reporting, polling and public engagement resources of The Post with rigorous academic analysis from the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences’ nationally-renowned Department of Government and Politics. The poll is designed to provide academics, students and members of the public with insight into both key races and the issues that matter to Maryland residents.

In addition to its impact as a public education tool, the poll also represents a unique research opportunity for UMD students. Hanmer and Associate Professor Stella Rouse, director of CAPC, work with students affiliated with the Center on the design of the poll questions and the analysis of its responses.

The poll is directed by Washington Post polling manager Scott Clement, UMD alumna Emily Guskin (GVPT ’06), polling analyst for The Post, and Hanmer for the University of Maryland.


Photo credit: The Washington Post

 

University of Maryland Develops Model to Prevent E. coli Outbreaks in Leafy Greens

March 23, 2017
Contacts: 

Graham Binder, 301-405-9235

COLLEGE PARK, Md.--It is widely recommended that adults and children eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to round out a healthy and nutritious diet. However, leafy vegetable consumption poses a unique problem in that they are generally consumed raw, which increases the risk of transmitting foodborne illness. California is responsible for more than 75 percent of leafy greens grown in the U.S.  From 1999-2008, the state produced leafy greens with a significant concentration of E. coli outbreaks from July to November. In order to understand the pathway of E. coli in leafy green production, University of Maryland researchers developed the first dynamic system model which simulates the effects of soil, irrigation, cattle, wild pig and rainfall in a hypothetical farm.

Results of the system model conclude that the peak July to November timeframe is consistent with the prevalence of E. coli in cattle and wild pig feces in the Salinas Valley, a major leafy greens producing region in California. The finding was the most evident after examining the results of various scenarios. From this, the research team concluded that the concentration of E. coli in leafy greens can be significantly reduced if feces contamination is controlled. By measuring the numerous factors associated with leafy green contamination in a farm setting, UMD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources offers a significant contribution to the science-based process of preventing leafy greens outbreaks in the future.  

According to a 2015 study on leafy vegetable-associated outbreaks, leafy vegetables were linked to over 600 outbreaks in the U.S. from 1973-2012, causing more than 20,000 illnesses and 1,000 hospitalizations. Of the bacterial pathogens, E. coli was responsible for about 50 outbreaks, more than 1,600 illnesses, and 450 hospitalizations.

“Results of our study can help prevent crop contamination at the preharvest stage, reducing the number of leafy green related illnesses in the future,” said Abani K. Pradhan, Ph.D. of UMD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “We are excited that this research blends our team’s knowledge of food safety and computational microbiology, and allows us to estimate the impact of various sources of contamination which pose threats to our food supply and security.”

The findings have implications for future research.  According to Pradhan, this model can be extended or adopted to examine other crops that are affected by harmful pathogens. In addition to E. coli, Pradhan’s team is currently exploring system models for tomatoes and cucumbers in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Pradhan and his team, in collaboration with a researcher from Rutgers University, completed a manuscript titled “A System Model for Understanding the Role of Animal Feces as a Route of Contamination of Leafy Greens before Harvest,” which was recently published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

 

UMD Graduate School Programs Ranked Among Nation’s Best by U.S. News & World Report

March 16, 2017

COLLEGE PARK, Md. --The University of Maryland’s graduate programs were once again highly ranked in the 2018 edition of U.S. News & World Report's Best Graduate Schools. This year’s list features rankings across six disciplines— business, law, engineering, education, medicine, and nursing. In total, 62 UMD graduate programs and specializations were among the top programs in the nation.

Three UMD graduate programs and specializations rank among the top three in the U.S.: Student Counseling and Personnel Services ranks first, African-American History ranks second, and Plasma ranks third. 

UMD also ranked in the top 10 in the following categories:

Business

  • Information Systems (9th)

Education 

  • Educational Psychology (tied at 5th)
  • Higher Education Administration (10th)

Earth Sciences

  • Geochemistry (tied at 7th)

Library and Information Studies (8th)

  • Archives and Preservation (5th)
  • Information Systems (5th)
  • Services for Children and Youth (5th)
  • School Library Media (tied at 5th)
  • Digital Librarianship (tied at 8th)

Math

  • Applied Math ( tied 10th)

Physics

  • Atomic/Molecular/Optical (tied at 6th)
  • Quantum (tied at 8th)
  • Condensed Matter (10th)

The U.S. News and World Report’s annual rankings are based on factors, such as employment rates and starting salaries for graduates and standardized test scores of newly enrolled students.                                                                                                                                

For a full list of UMD’s top 25 graduate programs, click here. To view U.S. News and World Report’s complete  list of Best Graduate School rankings,  click here.

 

 

Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center at UMD Signs $64.8M Cooperative Agreement with NASA

March 15, 2017
Contacts: 

Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) has been awarded a five-year, $64.8 million cooperative agreement with NASA. Established in 1999, ESSIC is a joint center of the University of Maryland and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center that supports research, teaching and career training in Earth system science.

The award will enable UMD to continue and expand its close collaboration with NASA Goddard, building on a legacy of nearly two decades of world-class research in meteorology, oceanography, terrestrial physics, hydrology, atmospheric chemistry, ecosystem science and satellite earth observations. The broad goal of ESSIC is to understand the relationships between Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land masses and biosphere, with an eye to the influence of human activities on Earth’s coupled systems.

“An understanding of our planet has never been more important, and ESSIC is well-placed to address some of the most pressing questions in Earth system science,” said Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, interim director of ESSIC and a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science at UMD who serves as the cooperative agreement’s principal investigator. “We look forward to the next five years of collaboration with NASA Goddard and our many other academic and government research partners.”

ESSIC links research efforts at UMD’s Departments of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, Geology, and Geographical Sciences with the Earth Sciences Directorate at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. ESSIC also has a cooperative agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to support satellite research focused on weather and water forecasting models and predictions. By fostering close integration within the university community and among government partners in NASA and NOAA, ESSIC serves a unique role as a collaboration hub within the national Earth system science research community.

“Through our powerful scientific partnership, we have right here one of the world’s major clusters of Earth system science,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “Their scientific research will make a major contribution to addressing the most pressing challenges of our time.”

Over the next five years, ESSIC will prioritize projects within six major research themes:

  • Atmospheric composition and processes (aerosol/cloud physics)
  • Atmospheric chemistry/carbon cycle
  • The cryosphere
  • Hydrometeorology/precipitation retrieval
  • Hydrology/land surface processes
  • Numerical modeling/data assimilation

“We are looking forward to continued work with ESSIC and UMD on important research areas such as atmospheric processes, atmospheric chemistry and dynamics, and hydrospheric sciences,” said Torry Johnson, NASA Goddard’s Technical Officer for the ESSIC cooperative agreement.

Some recent ESSIC research highlights include:

  • A 2017 study in the journal Nature Scientific Data, led by ESSIC Assistant Research Scientist Amy McNally, which described a new method to use data from NASA’s Land Information System to monitor agricultural and water resources in Africa and Central Asia, and integrate the information into USAID’s Famine Early Warning System Network.
  • A 2016 study in the journal Nature Geoscience, with key contributions from ESSIC Associate Research Scientist Can Li, which reported satellite measurements of 39 major unreported sources of toxic sulfur dioxide emissions. CMNS covered this work with a news release.
  • A 2015 study in the Journal of Geophysical Research, led by ESSIC Assistant Research Scientist Jaehwah Lee, which describes a method to integrate information from three of NASA’s main Earth observing satellites to better track the height of smoke and dust aerosols.
  • A 2015 study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, led by ESSIC Associate Research Scientist Can Li, outlined a method to monitor atmospheric formaldehyde using satellites, in an effort to understand how environmental pressures such as drought can affect air quality.
  • A 2015 study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, led by Goddard-based Visiting Research Scientist Hongbin Yu, which provided the first multi-year, satellite-based estimate of transcontinental phosphorus transport from the Bodélé Depression in Chad to the Amazon basin. CMNS covered this work with a news release.

“All of us at ESSIC look forward to building on our record of success by tackling new challenges in Earth systems research over the next five years,” Miralles-Wilhelm said. “We are confident that our strong partnerships with NASA, NOAA and others will enable us to support the vibrant Earth system research community, both here in the greater Washington, D.C. area and beyond.”

President Wallace D. Loh Statement on Fliers

March 14, 2017

The white nationalist posters found on college campuses, including our own, contain detestable language that is an affront to who we are, and what we stand for, as the State's flagship university. As a community, we stand for excellence, diversity, and inclusion. We stand against all forms of ignorance and hate. UMPD is investigating this matter as a hate bias.

The University of Maryland, College Park will close tonight, March 13, 2017 at 9 p.m. and will remain closed Tuesday, March 14, 2017 due to expected inclement weather.

March 13, 2017

The University of Maryland, College Park will close tonight, March 13, 2017 at 9 p.m. and will remain closed Tuesday, March 14, 2017 due to expected inclement weather.

Pages

Photo of atmospheric ammonia across the globe
March 27
Fertilizers, animal waste, changes to atmospheric chemistry and warming soils tied to increased ammonia across globe. Read
March 27
Technique to standardize sugar groups could lead to better quality control, customization. Read
March 24
Governor’s popularity declines when voters consider 2018. Read
March 23
Contamination of soil with wild pig and cattle feces has direct correlation to E. coli prevalence in leafy greens.  Read