Jagwire https://jagwire.augusta.edu Augusta University News Tue, 18 Jan 2022 19:47:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2016/01/cropped-AU.Social.Augustus_Blue-1-32x32.jpg Jagwire https://jagwire.augusta.edu 32 32 Political science professor named chair of nuclear advisory board https://jagwire.augusta.edu/political-science-professor-named-chair-of-nuclear-advisory-board/ Tue, 18 Jan 2022 19:47:15 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108649 “The position is important to me because it gives me a chance to use my expertise in government to help our community,” said Dr. Gregg Murray.]]>

Dr. Gregg Murray, professor of political science in Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, has been elected chair of the Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board (CAB), a position he will hold for the next two years.

The CAB provides the U.S. Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for the Office of Environmental Management (EM) with advice, information and recommendations on issues affecting the EM program at various sites, including the Savannah River Site.

“The position is important to me because it gives me a chance to use my expertise in government to help our community and region address a long-term challenge — completing the safe cleanup of the environmental legacy of decades of nuclear weapons development and government-sponsored energy research conducted at SRS,” said Murray. “The issues the board addresses have major implications for the future well beyond my lifetime and that of our students and their children as well.”

The CAB plays an integral role in advising the EM on such issues as clean-up standards and environmental restoration, stabilization and disposition of non-stockpile nuclear materials, waste management and disposition, future land use and long-term stewardship, risk assessment and management, and clean-up science and technology activities.

Murray’s duties include serving as the official public spokesperson for the CAB with regard to issues and policy recommendations.

“My goal for the next two years are to increase public engagement with the CAB and public knowledge and understanding of SRS through the board,” added Murray.

The CAB, a nonpartisan stakeholder board, has a membership that reflects a diversity of viewpoints in the community and region and includes those who are directly affected by site clean-up activities.

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What’s happening at Augusta University? Week of Jan. 17-23 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/whats-happening-at-augusta-university-week-of-jan-17-23/ Tue, 18 Jan 2022 15:29:06 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108613 This week: Basketball fans can support the Ronald McDonald House, experts warn that your current face mask may not be good enough and physicians encourage regular testing to prevent cervical cancer.]]>

This week: Basketball fans can support the Ronald McDonald House, experts warn that your current face mask may not be good enough and physicians encourage regular testing to prevent cervical cancer.

Stuff the Stadium to benefit the Ronald McDonald House

Fans are encouraged to bring new stuffed animals to Augusta University’s men’s basketball game against Georgia Southwestern at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19 at Christenberry Fieldhouse. After the first AU basket is made, fans are asked to throw teddy bears and stuffed animals on the court. All stuffed animals collected will then be donated to the Ronald McDonald House of Augusta. 

“We are always looking for a way to engage our fans and this one is a win-win for everyone. We hope to have a strong showing and want to see the court covered with stuffed animals. Ronald McDonald House has been a big part of the Augusta community for a long time and this is a way to show our appreciation for all they do,” said men’s basketball coach Dip Metress.  

 Better quality masks can help prevent the spread of Omicron

For more than a year, most have been taking the simple approach of wearing a mask to help contain the spread of COVID-19. Cloth masks have become the norm for many, but are not the most effective, especially when it comes to helping prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.

“Cloth masks and things like that are very comfortable and they have good coverage on the face,” said Dr. Rodger MacArthur, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Medical College of Georgia. “But they don’t fit so tight and so air and any virus that’s in the air can come through the sides.” Three-ply surgical masks, KN95 masks or N95 masks offer more protection against the highly contagious variant.

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

A simple test could prevent women from developing cervical cancer. Pap smears have played a major role in reducing cervical cancer rates and are an essential part of a woman’s cancer screening and prevention plan.

“Cervical cancer is rare in women receiving regular screenings through Pap smears,” said Dr. Robert Higgins, a gynecologic oncologist at the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University. “In general it takes many years for cervical cancer to develop. If precancerous changes are detected through regular Pap smears, they can be easily treated.”

Interview opportunities are available for these story ideas. Call 706-522-3023 to schedule an interview. Check out the Augusta University Expert Center to view our list of experts who can help with story ideas.

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Augusta University forms high-performance computing research cluster https://jagwire.augusta.edu/augusta-university-forms-high-performance-computing-research-cluster/ Fri, 14 Jan 2022 18:49:04 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108610 The High-Performance Computing Services Core is a joint university research initiative, supported by Augusta University’s Division of Information Technology and the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences. ]]>

Augusta University has invested $1 million in creation of the High-Performance Computing (HPC) Services Core, a joint university research initiative supported by Augusta University’s Division of Information Technology and the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences.

The formation of the HPC Services Core is an extension of a provost-initiated effort to assist researchers in accessing and using high-performance computing.

An HPC cluster consists of computer servers that are networked together, and each server is called a node. The nodes in each cluster work together to boost processing speed and deliver high-performance computing. This advanced computing can enable or accelerate research in many areas, including computer science, cybersecurity, basic sciences, health sciences, data science, artificial intelligence and others.

The creation of this core is a major investment meant to serve as a catalyst to the campus research community. Dr. Gagan Agrawal, the associate dean of research and graduate studies at the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences, will serve as the founding core director. The core will be supported by Lawrence Kearney and Mia Jolly in Augusta University’s research technologies division.

“This is an exciting development for Augusta University and I feel honored to be serving as the founding core director,’’ said Agrawal.

The goal of this new research core is to promote, enable and aid Augusta University’s research and cybersecurity missions by integrating leading-edge HPC technologies and services into enterprise service offerings. Systems providing these services will be available to researchers, faculty and staff of Augusta University across all scientific and academic disciplines.

The HPC cluster will have more than 1 petabyte of storage, which is equivalent to 1,000 terabytes. Data storage of various sizes will be available to cluster users, however the cluster only provides support for unclassified data processing.

“I am thrilled to see this important research cluster come to fruition with a first-class computer scientist in Dr. Agrawal leading the charge,” said Dr. Michael Diamond, senior vice president for research at Augusta University. “This new offering will be a major asset to Augusta University’s research enterprise, providing researchers leading-edge technologies and services to further their work.”

Researchers interested in participating can learn more about the cluster.

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Augusta University names inaugural dean of libraries https://jagwire.augusta.edu/augusta-university-names-inaugural-dean-of-libraries/ Fri, 14 Jan 2022 14:00:34 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108552 “I was drawn to Augusta University for the opportunity to lead libraries in a public institution that is growing in enrollment and research,” Warren said.]]>

Brad Warren, former senior associate dean of library services at the University of Cincinnati, has been named Augusta University’s inaugural dean of libraries.

Reporting to the executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, as the dean of libraries, Warren will oversee the Robert B. Greenblatt, M.D. Library on the Health Sciences Campus and the Reese Library on the Summerville Campus.

“Brad is an innovative and visionary leader who will serve in this historic position as our first-ever dean of libraries. Brad will work alongside AU’s other 10 deans to elevate our libraries, so our libraries can support our enrollment and research growth. Having worked with Brad previously, I know he is the right person at the right time for AU,” said Dr. Neil MacKinnon, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

Warren has extensive experience in strategic planning work and facilities development necessary to lead a research library. At the University of Cincinnati, he led the development and creation of the UC Libraries’ 10-year strategic sizing charter in response to an anticipated 50% increase in student enrollment.

At Yale University, he co-led the team responsible for the $20 million Sterling Memorial Library Nave restoration project, implementing a radical redesign of library services and spaces.

“I was drawn to Augusta University for the opportunity to lead libraries in a public institution that is growing in enrollment and research,” Warren said.

“This new role signifies the university’s commitment to providing excellence to its faculty, students and staff and achieving its aspirations through an investment in its libraries. I am so excited to bring my passion and creativity in leading the library faculty and staff, collaborating with my peer deans, and ensuring the success of Provost MacKinnon’s vision at AU.”

Warren serves as a member, leader and active contributor to the American Library Association and Association of College and Research Libraries. He has worked at several research universities in a variety of positions including Yale University, UNC Charlotte, and North Carolina State University. He is a published author and speaker on transformative change and innovative services in research libraries.

Warren earned both his bachelor’s degree in comparative literature and history and master’s degree in library science from Indiana University.

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Novel treatment target for heart disease found in the blood vessel wall https://jagwire.augusta.edu/novel-treatment-target-for-heart-disease-found-in-the-blood-vessel-wall/ Fri, 14 Jan 2022 13:44:16 +0000 http://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108580 A molecule of RNA called CARMN has been found in abundance in the healthy smooth muscle cells that help give our blood vessels strength and flexibility, and distinctly decreased in vascular diseases like atherosclerosis, a major cause of heart attack and stroke, scientists report.]]>

A molecule of RNA called CARMN has been found in abundance in the healthy smooth muscle cells that help give our blood vessels strength and flexibility, and distinctly decreased in vascular diseases like atherosclerosis, a major cause of heart attack and stroke, scientists report.

Their findings in human tissue and confirmed in rodent models of vascular disease provide new insight into how smooth muscle cells in our blood vessel walls go from enabling a sound passageway for blood flow to instead enabling plaque development in places like our coronary arteries and/or reclosure of those arteries following common treatments including angioplasty and stent placement.

They also potentially point to a new approach to avoiding both, that could one day include adding CARMN to drug-eluting stents, which are currently coated with antiproliferative drugs to help deter the unhealthy cell proliferation and scar formation that may result from their placement.

“If you have a low level of CARMN, it mostly likely predisposes you to a higher susceptibility to get atherosclerosis or angioplasty-induced restenosis,” says Dr. Jiliang Zhou, vascular biologist in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. “If CARMN is downregulated, it will induce or trigger those smooth muscle cells to become unhealthy or diseased.”

When the scientists restored healthy CARMN levels in models of common vascular disease, unhealthy cell proliferation and scar formation inside blood vessels were dramatically diminished, and when they removed CARMN from smooth muscle cells, the damage response was exaggerated, leaving little room for blood to flow, they report in the journal Circulation.

Many of us likely think about RNA making proteins, and which proteins the RNA makes determine a gene’s function. Less-studied noncoding RNAs don’t make proteins but do help regulate cells, and have been shown to have a role in many different normal body functions as well as disease states like cancer. So the scientists decided to look at what was happening with long noncoding RNA in vascular disease, and that’s where CARMN stood out.

Senior postdoctoral fellow Dr. Kunzhe Dong, the study’s first author, led analysis of large-scale human datasets of RNA sequencing of multiple tissue and cell types to find the long-noncoding RNAs — literally the longest of the noncoding RNAs — that were abundant in smooth muscle cells and might have a role in their activity. The datasets enabled them to compare expression in healthy and changed, or modulated, cells in a single individual.

CARMN emerged as the sole long noncoding RNA consistently abundant in human smooth muscle cells, and subsequent studies of mouse tissues showed the same. Inside those cells, corresponding author Zhou and his colleagues saw CARMN bind to and increase the activity of myocardin, a protein and potent activator of genes critical to the differentiation of smooth muscle cells.

“They need each other to potentiate the function of each other,” Zhou says. CARMN is the first non-coding RNA found to interact with myocardin in a relationship that appears specific and essential to smooth muscle cells.

The new data indicate CARMN’s roles include helping regulate the response of vascular smooth muscle cells to injury, like those unavoidably sustained during common procedures like angioplasty, in which invasive cardiologists use balloons, lasers, even drills to restore blood flow through diseased arteries, and often place stents, wire-mesh cylindrical-shaped structures, inside blood vessels to help maintain that blood passage.

Smooth muscle cells likely are trying to help repair the injury, but they are known to become less contractile and more proliferative as part of their injury response. In some individuals they appear to overreact, which can result in reclosure or at least renarrowing of an artery following angioplasty and/or stent placement.

In their current laboratory studies, for example, 14 days after a balloon injury was induced, similar to what happens in angioplasty, they found CARMN expression significantly reduced compared to levels in a control artery. And, when they genetically knocked down natural CARMN levels in smooth muscle cells, cell proliferation and migration as well as scar formation inside the artery, called the neointima, were significantly increased, they write.

Conversely, when they used the infective power of the respiratory illness inducing adenovirus to deliver more CARMN directly to the injury site, it decreased the obstructions.

The scientists used a green fluorescent protein knock-in reporter mouse model to look at how and where CARMN expression changed. When Zhou looks at the cell contents of diseased human or animal coronary arteries he sees essentially the same population of cell types and sees major CARMN expression is pretty much limited to the smooth muscle cells. That expression pattern provides great evidence of CARMN’s importance to smooth muscle cells and, if the work leads to treatments that enhance CARMN expression, will likely limit any side effects, Zhou notes.

CARMN levels may even help determine initial disease risk, Zhou says. While more work is needed, CARMN levels are known to vary between individuals and animals, he says. While it’s also known that a high-fat, high-cholesterol Western diet contributes to blood vessel disease in the heart, brain and legs, Zhou has some evidence it also decreases natural levels of CARMN. They found CARMN levels also decreased in human arteries in the brain that had aneurysms, a weak point in the vessel wall.

He and his colleagues are exploring that association further, and want to also answer questions like whether exercise can increase CARMN levels and whether aging decreases them, as he expects they do.

Smooth muscle cells are the major contractile component of blood vessel walls as well as many other “hollow” organs like the bladder and intestines, they write.

In addition to the smooth muscle cells, the scientists also found CARMN was transiently expressed in the heart cells, or cardiomyocytes, during heart development of both mice and humans, and slightly expressed following development in fibroblasts, a major cell type in connective tissue important to wound healing, and a component of artery walls. CARMN also was found in pericytes, a type of smooth muscle cell found in smaller blood vessels. But in healthy smooth muscle cells, CARMN is always present and expressed at high levels, Zhou says.

The research was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and an Established Investigator Award and Transformational Project Award from the American Heart Association to Zhou.

Dr. Dong is also supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association.

Read the full study.

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Augusta University president once again named one of Georgia’s most influential https://jagwire.augusta.edu/augusta-university-president-once-again-named-one-of-georgias-most-influential/ Wed, 12 Jan 2022 18:00:29 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108490 “I am honored to receive this distinguished recognition again during a year in which we have seen many challenges in a changing landscape in health care and academia."]]>

For the seventh consecutive year, Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, has been named to Georgia Trend’s list of “100 Most Influential Georgians” for 2022.

Each year the magazine recognizes the most influential leaders who demonstrate the strongest leadership qualities, power and influence in the state.

“I am honored to receive this distinguished recognition again during a year in which we have seen many challenges in a changing landscape in health care and academia,” said Keel.

“I also want to congratulate presidential colleagues across the state and Augusta’s very own Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. and Jay Markwalter. Their work is leaving lasting impressions not only in the community, but throughout the state.”

Under Keel’s leadership, the university saw the completion of the new $70 million College of Science and Mathematics building, which opened to students in September; the creation of the Augusta University Cyber Institute; and the expansion in academic offerings such as the MCG 3+ Primary Care Pathway Program.

The university also remains on the forefront in the fight against COVID-19 and enrollment continues to climb with a 5.7% increase in graduate and professional enrollment from fall 2020 to fall 2021.

Keel is a member of the Society for the Study of Reproduction, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Society for Gynecological Investigation.

Keel earned his bachelor’s degree from Augusta College in 1978 and his doctorate from the Medical College of Georgia in 1982. He worked for 20 years as a professor and researcher before moving into administration.

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Campus Recreation Center adds new equipment, makes facility improvements https://jagwire.augusta.edu/campus-recreation-center-adds-new-equipment-makes-facility-improvements/ Wed, 12 Jan 2022 14:00:31 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108529 To ring in the new year, Augusta University Campus Recreation has made some big updates.]]>

To ring in the new year, Augusta University Campus Recreation has made some big updates.

Over the holiday break, the Campus Recreation Center overhauled its weight room, replacing older equipment with new pieces. The facility has repainted both basketball courts and added two exercise bikes and a stair-stepper to its second-floor cardio space.

The facility also has new equipment available for checkout, including mountain bikes and a trailer that fits up to 10 bikes or 16 kayaks.

“AU Campus Recreation is excited to have students back and we can’t wait for them to check out our new equipment and facility improvements. These additions and improvements will provide students fun, new ways to stay active in 2022,” said Trey Harrison, director of Campus Recreation.

“Whether it be working out in the Campus Recreation Center, bike riding on a local trail, or paddling down the canal, we’ve got AU students covered. We hope they’ll come take advantage of all the opportunities.”

All of the recent changes are made thanks to student input. Many students had requested that the center replace old fitness equipment, add new pieces of equipment and offer mountain bikes for use on local trails.

For more information about Campus Recreation, visit their website or review the January 2022 group fitness schedule.

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Here’s how Augusta University students and employees can get tested for COVID-19 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/heres-how-augusta-university-students-and-employees-can-get-tested-for-covid-19/ Tue, 11 Jan 2022 19:40:09 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108522 Augusta University encourages both its students and employees to seek COVID-19 testing when needed.]]>

Augusta University encourages both its students and employees to seek COVID-19 testing when needed.

For students

While supplies last, the Student Health Clinic does have COVID-19 rapid tests available. However, due to low supply, these are available exclusively by appointment and are only for students who present with respiratory symptoms. Symptomatic students can call 706-721-3448 to make a testing appointment.

Alternatively, students can receive testing at their primary care physician; a local urgent care or retail pharmacy that offers COVID-19 testing; or the Annex II drive-thru testing location, which is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The Annex II site does not require appointments and allows for onsite registration, but the process is quicker if students pre-register.

Students can come to the site any time during testing hours, but should try to arrive by 2 p.m. Site management will turn cars away if the line gets backed up close to closing.

Students can also order free at-home tests from the federal COVID-19 testing website. Orders will usually ship in seven to 12 days.

For employees

Employees of Augusta University or Augusta University Health who need testing should call Employee Health and Wellness at 706-721-3418 and press option 1 to get scheduled for prioritized testing. Tests will be administered at the Annex II drive-thru testing location, and results are typically turned around in less than 24 hours.

Employees must book their appointment via phone through Employee Health to receive a prioritized testing appointment. Note that no testing or appointment booking is done onsite at the Employee Health office; testing appointments are made exclusively via phone (706-721-3418; option 1).

It is critical that employees arrive only at their appointment time, because the Annex II testing site is operated by two different entities: the Department of Public Health operates the site from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and Augusta University operates the site from either 4-5:30 p.m. or 4-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. (The hours depend on testing volume.) If employees do not follow their appointment time and arrive while DPH is still operating the site, they will be turned away or swabbed through DPH — and AU Health does not have access to DPH test results.

Employees who do not want or need expedited results can receive testing at their primary care physician or at any urgent care facility or retail pharmacy that offers COVID-19 testing. They can also order free at-home tests from the federal COVID-19 testing website, which usually ship in seven to 12 days.

Students who have questions about COVID-19 testing should call Student Health Services at 706-721-3448. Employees with questions should call Employee Health and Wellness at 706-721-3418.

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Grant funding applications now open for Converge Symposium Collaborative https://jagwire.augusta.edu/grant-funding-applications-now-open-for-converge-symposium-collaborative/ Tue, 11 Jan 2022 19:34:46 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108501 Provost Neil J. MacKinnon announced his office will offer grant funding for investigations into rural health issues to 10 collaborative research projects.]]>

In October, Augusta University partnered with The University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University in Scotland, as well as the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy, to host an inaugural international rural health symposium.

This virtual multidisciplinary conference, Converge International Rural Health Symposium, was the first step in a collaboration that may include future joint research, exchange programs for faculty and students and potentially even joint certificates and degrees with a focus on rural health, according to Dr. Neil J. MacKinnon, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Augusta University.

During the Converge symposium, MacKinnon announced the Office of the Provost would offer grant funding for investigations into rural health issues to 10 collaborative research projects, each up to $10,000.

“The purpose of this funding opportunity is to invite and support multidisciplinary collaborative partnerships that investigate issues around access to care, experiential learning, and connectivity in rural communities,” MacKinnon said. “Each funded project must involve at least one partner from each side of the Atlantic, and that those who are funded must agree to speak about their project at the Fall 2022 Rural Health Symposium to be hosted by Robert Gordon University.”

MacKinnon proudly announced this week the call for collaborative research proposals addressing issues in rural health is now open. Applications for the grant funding can be submitted through March 1.

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Any individual or group from Augusta University, University of Georgia College of Pharmacy, University of Aberdeen or Robert Gordon University is invited to develop joint applications. The research projects can focus on, but are not limited to, clinical practice, health care delivery, research in rural health context, education for rural health care and artistic representation from a rural perspective.

The Office of the Provost at Augusta University will assign a Converge Application Review Committee for application review and award decisions. Awards granted will be managed by Augusta University’s Department of Sponsored Program Administration. Applicants will be notified of award decisions by April 1.

Eligibility criteria for the grant funding are as follows:

  • Applications must have at least one principal investigator (PI) from AU or UGA and one from The University of Aberdeen or Robert Gordon University.
  • The PI, if from AU, must hold a faculty appointment in one of the 10 colleges or schools of Augusta University.
  • For each award where there is no PI from Augusta University, the application must identify at least one AU employee to serve as administrator for financial accounting.
  • Funded researchers must agree to present, either in person or virtually, completed or emerging outcomes at the Fall 2022 Rural Health Symposium to be hosted by Robert Gordon University.
  • Preference will go to those faculty and staff members who participated in the 2021 Converge Rural Health Symposium.
  • Additional administrative requirements may apply for proposed clinical studies that engage human subject research.
  • Activity for which funding is requested must be completed between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023.

The call for applications is available now through March 1.

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Augusta University to host town hall Jan. 18 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/augusta-university-to-host-town-hall-jan-18/ Tue, 11 Jan 2022 14:59:43 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108496 Listeners are encouraged to email their questions in advance.]]>

Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, will host a virtual town hall at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 18 to provide updated information regarding COVID-19 protocol and safety on campus.

Watch the event on the university’s streaming website. Listeners are encouraged to email their questions in advance.

Find more information on the COVID-19 resources page.

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Summer volunteer applications open for students interested in health care https://jagwire.augusta.edu/summer-volunteer-applications-open-for-students-interested-in-health-care/ Mon, 10 Jan 2022 19:00:41 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108433 The deadline for all summer applications is Thursday, March 3.]]>

Volunteer Services and Community Engagement is now accepting applications for its two summer volunteer programs: VolunTeen, intended for local high school students, and VolunJag, intended for current Augusta University students.

Both programs, running from June 6 to July 15, will help students explore a career in the medical field. Students will be assigned to various areas, including patient care units, outpatient units, the recovery room and office support.

This year’s program theme is “World of Opportunity” and will feature programs designed to develop leadership skills, demonstrate the advantages of networking and offer professionally led career workshops that will mold participants into premier health care leaders.

Students will learn the daily operations of Augusta University Medical Center through hands-on training and gain a holistic view of their role in the lives of patients and families.

students standing in operating room simulation
VolunTeens and VolunJags participating in an anesthesia simulation pop-up workshop in summer 2019.

Both programs give a firsthand look into the roles of medical professionals, allowing students to absorb their knowledge and become familiar with proper practices in health care today. Students will get a chance to improve their communication and leadership skills by working within different sectors of the medical center.

Students will take part in professional development, learn tips for networking with medical experts and participate in academic panel discussions, pop-up workshops and more.

The deadline for all summer applications is Thursday, March 3. Note that for the VolunTeen Program, only rising high school juniors and seniors who are at least 16 years old may apply.

Call 706-721-3596 or email Volunteer Services and Community Engagement with questions.

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Walia named School of Computer and Cyber Sciences associate dean of academic affairs https://jagwire.augusta.edu/walia-named-school-of-computer-and-cyber-sciences-associate-dean-of-academic-affairs/ Mon, 10 Jan 2022 18:30:20 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108402 “I find energy in creating environments where students can thrive, find resources for themselves, and create opportunities that allow their interaction in a global community,” says Walia.]]>

Dr. Gursimran Walia has been named associate dean of academic affairs in the Augusta University School of Computer and Cyber Sciences. Walia joined the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences in January 2022.

“Dr. Walia brings substantial expertise in curriculum development, accreditation, instructional effectiveness, student recruitment, and industrial and public outreach,” said Alex Schwarzmann, the dean of the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences. “Dr. Walia is also an active researcher and successful mentor of graduate students. I look forward to working with him as we increase our enrollment and introduce new academic programs.”

In his position as associate dean, Walia will be responsible for providing leadership in strengthening the school’s academic programs and multidisciplinary programs, in alignment with the school’s mission. Walia will advocate for all issues of undergraduate, graduate and multidisciplinary programs; support accreditation and program evaluation; and work on strategic planning associated with the students and academic programs.

Additionally, Walia will be focused on the school’s mission of providing a rich intellectual, academic environment for educating students to become leaders in the discovery and dissemination of knowledge and in its application.

“I find energy in creating environments where students can thrive, find resources for themselves, and create opportunities that allow their interaction in a global community,” said Walia. “I am very excited and invigorated by the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences’ goal of strategic growth. From my experiences, I’ve learned that I find energy in supporting, motivating and investing in others.”

Prior to joining Augusta University, Walia was a professor of computer science in the Paulson College of Computing and Engineering at Georgia Southern University, and he also served as chair of the Department of Computer Science. His previous academic appointment was on the computer science faculty at North Dakota State University, where he was also the graduate coordinator of software engineering. His research interests include empirical software engineering, human and software errors, and software quality improvement.

Walia obtained his PhD in computer science in 2009 from Mississippi State University. He is an accomplished researcher, working in several areas of computer science and software engineering. He is the author of more than 80 technical articles and his works are cited more than 1,400 times.

Walia mentored and graduated seven PhD students and more than 20 master’s students. His work has been and is supported by a number of research and educational grants totaling several million dollars, including multiple grants from the National Science Foundation.

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Augusta University and Shepeard Community Blood Center partner to address critical local blood shortage https://jagwire.augusta.edu/augusta-university-and-shepeard-community-blood-center-partner-to-address-critical-local-blood-shortage/ Mon, 10 Jan 2022 18:06:36 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108464 Blood donations made through Shepeard Community Blood Center remain in the CSRA and support local community members.]]>

Twenty local hospitals receive their blood and platelet supply from the Shepeard Community Blood Center, and blood reserves haven’t been this low in over three decades.

To combat this critical local blood shortage, Augusta University and Augusta University Health are partnering with Shepeard to host several blood drives the week of Jan. 9.

To incentivize participation, Shepeard will give $20 Amazon gift cards to all donors at all Augusta University blood drives this week.

  • Jan. 11: From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., there will be a blood drive in the lobby of Professional Building I on the Health Sciences Campus.
  • Jan. 12: From 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., there will be a blood drive in the Oak Hall Connect Space (Room C-130) on the Health Sciences Campus. In addition to the $20 Amazon gift card, donors at this location will receive a $10 voucher for onsite food.
  • Jan. 14: There will be two mobile units operating:

To save time at the donation site, donors are encouraged to fill out their health questionnaire in advance via QuickPass. However, note that the questionnaire must be done the day of donation.

To donate at a different time, visit Shepeard Community Blood Center’s website to schedule a blood donation, or walk in to one of their clinics during operating hours. Photo ID is required for all donors.

Blood donations made through Shepeard Community Blood Center remain in the CSRA and support local community members. Read their stories.

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Cheerleaders work hard to support Augusta University’s athletics https://jagwire.augusta.edu/cheerleaders-work-hard-to-support-augusta-universitys-athletics/ Mon, 10 Jan 2022 18:00:28 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108411 “Spectators at sporting events feed off of the energy of cheerleaders, but the cheerleaders feed off of each other!”]]>

Cheerleading is an important aspect of sports, as a cheerleader is often seen as a sports team’s biggest supporter.

They can sometimes inspire a team with the spark needed to change the momentum of the game, and head coach Harleigh Smith believes cheerleaders were made for these specific reasons.

“The phrase that someone is your ‘biggest cheerleader’ exists for a reason,” she said. “A cheerleader is their school and team’s biggest advocate and encourager. They bring so much energy to a sporting event and bring unwavering encouragement to their peers. Much like student athletes, cheerleaders are representatives of the institution at events and appearances throughout the CSRA as well.”

Augusta University uses cheers and chants to provide the audience with a sense of remembrance and pride, Smith said.

“Our cheers and chants are ones that have been used since before I began my coaching journey at Augusta University. I find that when it comes to collegiate sporting events, there is a sense of nostalgia when you attend as an alumni when you hear a familiar cheer, chant, or song being played by the pep band,” she said. “For this reason, I have made it a conscious effort to continue to utilize the existing cheers that have remained a constant, even through all of the university’s name changes!”

Cheerleaders are tasked with various responsibilities when they are in front of the crowd. A cheerleader’s job is to encourage not only the sports team, but the fans and themselves as well, performing in front of the audience at halftime. During their performance, they perform routines, stunts and jumps before the second half of the game starts.

Smith believes the key to performing these tasks during the game is chemistry.

“Chemistry between members of a cheerleading team is absolutely vital. You have to trust in the people that are lifting and tossing you over 8 feet in the air above a hard gym floor, as well as trust in the person you are allowing to stand on top of you,” she said.

“Spectators at sporting events feed off of the energy of cheerleaders, but the cheerleaders feed off of each other. The chemistry created amongst the team each year can heavily be attributed to our veterans who return each season and lead their peers.”

Cheerleaders are athletes who have to be in great shape to perform during the game. Augusta University’s cheerleaders participate in a number of practices so they are ready to perform on game day.

“In the past, in non-COVID years, the gameday team practiced one or two times per week, and those on the competitive team had at least one additional practice a week,” Turner said. “All of this was in addition to cheering at home volleyball and basketball games. This season, we practice twice a week.”

The first 10-15 minutes is mostly spent warming up by stretching and jogging, she said.

“In previous years, the first hour of practice is spent reviewing gameday materials and running through the ‘game plan’ for the next volleyball or basketball game. Game plan is what we use to refer to the stunts, pyramids and/or dances we plan to do during regular and/or media timeouts at a game,” Smith added.

“Prior to performing a skill, stunt or pyramid on the court, the team must ‘hit’ or ‘stick’ the stunt five times in a row at a practice; we always want them to be prepared to represent themselves and Augusta University to the best of their ability. The remainder of practices are dedicated to learning more advanced stunting skills, tumbling and working on skill progression. Practice is concluded with strength and conditioning exercises.”

The cheerleaders’ success is not only thanks to chemistry and practice; their success also comes from a healthy lifestyle.

“We encourage a healthy lifestyle amongst the cheerleaders that promotes their overall well-being — their physical health, emotional health and their mental health. While they do not have a set diet, we strongly encourage them to remember that unlike in other sports where you may lift weights or throw a ball… In cheerleading, other humans are what you are lifting/tossing, and everyone’s safety heavily relies on them taking proper care of their bodies and fueling them properly.”

The cheerleading squad has been affected by COVID-19 just like all of the sports teams at Augusta University. Smith has had to find new ways to conduct cheerleading activities with COVID-19 still lurking around.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic ‘arrived’ in Augusta and campus/learning went remote, that brought our competitive cheerleading season to an abrupt end. The competitive team, comprised of members of our gameday team, had just won the 2020 Peach Belt Conference Spirit Competition, and were preparing to go compete at CANAM Nationals that weekend,” she said.

“We transitioned our tryouts for the 2020-21 season to be virtual. After the team was selected based on their video submissions, they were tasked with learning our gameday cheers, chants and dances from recordings rather than at in-person practices,” she said.

“Although we had hoped to begin practicing in person in the fall, we ultimately did not have a team due to the prevalence of COVID-19 and Augusta University sporting events not having fans.”

With the fans attending sports events again, Smith hopes the competition part of cheerleading will start back up again next season.

“We plan to bring the competition component back to our team in the 2022-23 season. We also are hopeful to continue to grow the competitive component of our cheerleading program beyond the two competitions we have historically competed at, and someday take them to compete at the NCA Collegiate Nationals in Daytona Beach, Florida, every spring.”

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Freshens Fresh Food Kitchen opens on Summerville Campus https://jagwire.augusta.edu/freshens-fresh-food-kitchen-opens-on-summerville-campus/ Mon, 10 Jan 2022 15:00:26 +0000 http://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108371 The menu features smoothies, salads, rice bowls, wraps and flatbread sandwiches. Guests can choose from a variety of ingredients to create vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan options.]]>

Augusta University Dining and Sodexo have brought a new healthy food location to the Summerville Campus. Freshens Fresh Food Kitchen has opened in the Summerville Food Court in the Jaguar Student Activities Center.

The menu features smoothies, salads, rice bowls, wraps and flatbread sandwiches. Freshens is an Atlanta-based company that promotes “food with a purpose,” which is their commitment to provide guests better choices through responsible sourcing of ingredients. Guests can choose from a variety of ingredients to create vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan options.

All major credit cards and cash are accepted. Students on the Weekly 10, Weekly 15, or Weekly 19 meal plans may use meal equivalency once per day during the lunch period at Freshens Fresh Food Kitchen.

Fresgens FFK Logo

Freshens Fresh Food Kitchen hours are 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays.

Freshens smoothies are also available in the morning at the Starbucks located adjacent to the Freshens Fresh Food Kitchen.

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What’s happening at Augusta University? Week of Jan. 10-16 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/whats-happening-at-augusta-university-week-of-jan-10-16/ Mon, 10 Jan 2022 14:00:25 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108422 This week, the Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence honors care partners, evidence is found that could protect aging bones and Dr. Roscoe Williams will help honor Martin Luther King Jr.]]>

This week at Augusta University, the Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence honors care partners, evidence is found that could protect aging bones and Dr. Roscoe Williams will help honor Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK celebration will feature Augusta University pioneer

Dr. Roscoe Williams will be the keynote speaker for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. tri-college birthday celebration at noon Friday, Jan. 14 in the Maxwell Theatre. Augusta University, Augusta Technical College and Paine College have partnered to host the celebration. Williams was the first African American faculty or staff to be hired at Augusta College in 1970 and retired as the dean of students after 27 years.

“Dr. Roscoe Williams is a living legend within our community. His trailblazing journey is so relevant to what Dr. King stood for and we’re truly blessed to feature him as our keynote for this year’s celebration,” said Dr. Garrett Green, director of Multicultural Student Engagement.

Healthy bones at center of new MCG study

While many drugs we take can weaken our bones, as well as aging, scientists at the Medical College of Georgia have found a new target to help protect them. Dr. Meghan E. McGee-Lawrence, a biomedical engineer in the Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy said they are finding that in aging bone, the mineralocorticoid receptor, better known for its role in blood pressure regulation, is a key factor in bone health. Drugs that block the receptor, like hypertension medications, may help protect bone cells.

“We want to know what would cause bone cells to change which receptors they are expressing and how they are responding to these. But there are a lot of things that happen with aging. We know inflammation changes with aging, so there are a lot of different cues that could cause these things to change,” said McGee-Lawrence.

Care partners recognized for helping those with Parkinson’s disease

The Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University has recognized three care partners for their extraordinary acts of sacrifice and commitment. Joyce Stump, Brenda Boozer, and Kelly Spain have been honored by the COE.

“You don’t give up your life because of the Parkinson’s. As each change developed, your thought process has to go along with the changes,” said Stump. The MCG COE has all the resources needed to help patients and their care partner navigate Parkinson’s disease.

Interview opportunities are available for these story ideas. Call 706-522-3023 to schedule an interview. Check out the Augusta University Expert Center to view our list of experts who can help with story ideas.

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Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence at MCG honors caregivers https://jagwire.augusta.edu/parkinsons-foundation-center-of-excellence-at-mcg-honors-caregivers/ Thu, 06 Jan 2022 15:44:57 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108379 This year, the COE recognized three care partners for their extraordinary acts of sacrifices and commitment.]]>

Parkinson’s disease affects seven to 10 million people worldwide, with the number in the United States close to one million people. While most of those diagnosed are over the age of 65, it can affect much younger age groups as well.

For the past 20 years, the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University has been designated as a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence (COE), one of 33 designated centers nationwide.

The MCG COE offers many services to help patients, such as neurologists who are trained in movement disorders or specialize in Parkinson’s disease, social workers, mental health professionals, therapists and speech-language pathologists. There are also ongoing clinical trials to get new medications approved.

The COE also offers community-based educational events and promotes patient engagement to help those affected by the disease.

The criteria of being a COE is stringent, ranging from comprehensive care of patients, research and clinical trials to professional training, community education and outreach and collaboration with the Parkinson’s Foundation.

The COE designation brings with it a level of prestige and emphasis to keep the highest quality of care possible.

“It’s a big sense of pride, but also responsibility that I feel,” said Dr. Julie Kurek, medical director of the COE. “We’re honored to have that and I feel driven to maintain that and really deliver on what these patients need.”

Parkinson’s disease affects the central nervous system, and no two people are alike in how they are affected. A care partner plays a vital role in helping with everyday tasks most take for granted.

“We’re really trying to improve quality of life. A big part of that is taking care of the care partner as well. If the care partner isn’t doing well, that can leave the Parkinson’s patient stranded. So it’s an ecosystem,” said Kurek.

COE coordinator Martha Anne Tudor said when the pandemic hit, caregiver burnout became more prevalent. Gone were the opportunities for a patient and their caregiver to have a gathering with friends that helped keep sprits high.

This year, the COE recognized three care partners for their extraordinary acts of sacrifice and commitment by creating the Parkinson’s Care Partner Award.

Man and woman standing two women standing man and woman standing

Joyce Stump, Brenda Boozer and Kelly Spain are this year’s recipients. Each received an Amazon gift card and a crystal trophy and will also be featured on the Parkinson’s Foundation global website.

Stump’s husband Jimmy, who’s now 70, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when he was 48 and living in North Georgia. Her daughter-in-law is a nurse in Augusta and heard about a Parkinson’s conference, so Stump attended. That’s where she met Dr. John Morgan, director of the movement and memory disorders program at MCG.

“I remember walking up to him and saying, ‘Are you going to take patients?’ He said ‘Yes ma’am.’ ‘Will you take my husband?’” said Joyce Stump. “My wheels started to turn and if it’s going to be a few more years before we move down here [to Augusta], I better grab that young guy while he’s still taking patients.”

True to her words, the Stumps would make the commute to see Morgan before actually moving to the area.

Parkinson’s is a movement disorder and it sometimes comes on quickly. Stump, like many other care partners, realizes you have to be flexible and adapt.

“You don’t give up your life because of the Parkinson’s. As each change developed, your thought process has to go along with the changes,” added Stump. “I got involved with a support group and I would hear the phrase ‘I have Parkinson’s, but Parkinson’s doesn’t have me.’”

It’s advice echoed by the other award winners, including Boozer, whose husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 69.

“The most important thing is to not get overwhelmed. Create a routine that works for you and stick to it. Also, accept help. When someone offers help, take them up on it,” said Boozer. “Find some time for your life. Sometimes, you need to get out of the house and get away from a little bit. Try to keep a positive attitude.”

Asking for help isn’t always easy for people, but Stump reiterates it’s all right to reach out.

With her husband finding it tougher to get around, even the simple things like getting in and out of a car have become a tougher chore. At a recent visit to the COE, she called upon her son to assist.

Parkinson’s can affect people of all ages. Cedric Spain was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease in 2015 at the age of 39. His wife Kelly has been his caregiver.

“You get married and then life happens, and your world gets flipped upside down,” said Cedric Spain. “I’ve watched this human being completely turn her life around to take care of me. Kelly is the most giving person I’ve ever met. She is truly my partner.”

Spain said watching her husband suffer from Parkinson’s was the hardest thing. Their lives have changed greatly, but in a way, it has drawn them closer.

“The most rewarding part is spending every day with my husband,” said Kelly Spain. “We don’t talk a lot but it’s just rewarding being near him and walking through this journey with him. He still makes me laugh, even on his worst days. We cry a lot but we laugh a lot too.”

All three caregivers agree the Center of Excellence at MCG has made a huge impact in their lives.

“I would tell anybody, if you are newly diagnosed, get into that center and look at the opportunities there,” said Stump.

“The Center of Excellence here at MCG has been the biggest help. Before coming here, we were just wandering from doctor to doctor. Coming here has changed our lives,” said Boozer.

The Boozers were able to find all the resources they needed and get the correct diagnosis at the Center of Excellence.

Men are one and a half times more likely to have Parkinson’s disease than women. However, the COE is expanding its programs and focus on women and members of the LGBTQ community. According to Kurek, women have been left out of most scientific studies, and treatment that works in men doesn’t always work in women.

Having Parkinson’s disease is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, these families say. No matter the issue, the Center of Excellence offers services and advice to help people navigate through the disease in the best way possible.

“Parkinson’s is already a pretty isolating disease. We’re trying to make an effort to say we see you and address those issues,” said Kurek. “We want to dig into more and find out from people living it themselves and find out what would be helpful to them, and then try to provide that.”

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Lot 61 will be closed Friday, Jan. 7 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/lot-61-will-be-closed-friday-jan-7/ Thu, 06 Jan 2022 15:04:42 +0000 http://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108367 Lot 61 will re-open for regular use on Jan. 10.]]>

Lot 61 at Laney High School will be closed Friday, Jan. 7 for a Richmond County Board of Education event. Students and employees who use this lot should consider the following options:

  • Lot 38 on Chafee Avenue: Silver Shuttle to Laney Walker stops
  • Lots 40 and 41 on Parnell Street: Silver Shuttle to Laney Walker stops
  • Lots 69 and 70: Blue Route will pick up at crosswalk location. An extended Gold Route shuttle will pick up at the shelter in the middle of Lot 69.

Undergraduate students with classes on both campuses are advised to park at Summerville and ride the Blue or Blue Express shuttle from University Hall.

Additional shuttles have been scheduled to support the temporary parking assignments. Lot 61 will re-open for regular use on Monday, Jan. 10.

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Spearman-McCarthy, Arora to lead MCG diversity, equity and inclusion efforts https://jagwire.augusta.edu/spearman-mccarthy-arora-to-lead-mcg-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-efforts/ Thu, 06 Jan 2022 14:51:54 +0000 http://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108385 Spearman-McCarthy and Arora will co-develop and lead activities that reflect MCG’s vision — to create a diverse health care workforce that reflects and addresses the health needs of Georgia and the rest of the country]]>

Dr. E. Vanessa Spearman-McCarthy, an internist/psychiatrist and 2005 graduate of the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, has been named the medical school’s associate dean for learner diversity, equity and inclusion. Dr. Tania K. Arora, a surgical oncologist in the MCG Department of Surgery, has been named assistant dean.

Spearman-McCarthy and Arora will co-develop and lead activities that reflect MCG’s vision — to create a diverse health care workforce that reflects and addresses the health needs of Georgia and the rest of the country. They also will collaborate with university faculty, staff and leadership to ensure that all MCG students, residents, and fellows receive content and achieve awareness of diversity issues and health care inequities in clinical learning environments, to best prepare them for careers in medicine.

Spearman-McCarthy was recently appointed to serve on the Association of American Medical College’s Constructing an Equitable, Inclusive, and Anti-racist Learning Environment Working Group. She also chairs the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee for the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry, serves as a councilor and serves as a member of the association’s Planning Committee.

She serves on the advisory board for the Diversity in Addiction Research Training (DART) Program at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where she completed her internal medicine/psychiatry residency, and chairs the Health and Wellness Committee for the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College, her undergraduate alma mater.

An associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Health Behavior and Medicine, she serves as the medical director and the primary attending physician on the Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry Service at the medical school’s teaching affiliate AU Health System. The service focuses on the treatment of patients with comorbid psychiatric and general medical conditions. An avid educator, Spearman-McCarthy teaches MCG students physical diagnosis and case-based learning. In the clinical setting she supervises the psychiatry clerkship for third- and fourth-year medical students, as well as general psychiatry residents, addiction medicine fellows and internal medicine residents in the Medicine Continuity Clinic.

Spearman-McCarthy is an advisor to the Department of Psychiatry’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, co-chairs the MCG Faculty Senate’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and serves as the First Look Planning Committee chair for the MCG Graduate Medical Education Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Health Disparities Subcommittee.

She is clinical advisor to the MCG Chapter of the Student National Medical Association and is an advisor to the Augusta University Minority Association of Premedical Students.

An honored educator and clinician, she was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and has been inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society.

She is a past recipient of the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry’s Roger Kathol Pioneering Spirit Award, the Leonard Tow Humanism Award, the MCG Faculty Senate Patient Care Award, the Patient Family Centered Services Impact Award, the MCG Department of Psychiatry’s Educator of the Year Award and several MCG Exemplary Teaching Awards.

Arora was recently elected to serve as vice chair of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Diversity Issues, which studies the educational and professional needs of underrepresented surgeons and surgical trainees and works to eliminate health disparities. This year, she also was chosen by the college to be an associate member of its Academy of Master Surgeon Educators.

The ACS has more than 82,000 members, including more than 6,600 fellows in other countries, making it the largest organization of surgeons in the world.

Arora, who has been a fellow of the ACS since 2016, joined the MCG faculty in 2019 as an associate professor of surgery and serves as director of the General Surgery Residency Program. She also chairs the Association for Surgical Education’s Committee on Citizenship and Global Responsibility, Association of Program Directors in Surgery’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the Association of Academic Surgeons Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She is a member of the Association of Women Surgeon’s Subcommittee on Social Media and the Association of Surgical Education’s Podcast Committee.

Last year, she also chaired the MCG Graduate Medical Education Subcommittee on Diversity, Equality, Inclusion and Health Disparities, the Department of Surgery’s Program Evaluation Committee and completed her term on the Society of Surgical Oncology’s Membership Committee.

The London native received her medical degree in 2004 from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond. She completed two years of research, under a T32 grant from the NIH, examining how the amino acid L-arginine improved outcomes of severe hemorrhagic shock in an animal model, in 2008; a surgery residency in 2011; and a fellowship in complex general surgical oncology in 2013, all at VCU School of Medicine.

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New target may help protect bones as we age https://jagwire.augusta.edu/new-target-may-help-protect-bones-as-we-age/ Wed, 05 Jan 2022 13:00:46 +0000 http://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108309 Drugs that block the mineralocorticoid receptor, like the hypertension medications spironolactone and eplerenone, may help protect bone cells, MCG scientists say.]]>

Drugs we take like prednisone can weaken our bones and so can aging, and scientists working to prevent both have some of the first evidence that the best target may not be the logical one.

They are finding that in aging bone, the mineralocorticoid receptor, better known for its role in blood pressure regulation, is a key factor in bone health, says Dr. Meghan E. McGee-Lawrence, biomedical engineer in the Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy at the Medical College of Georgia.

And drugs that block the receptor, like the hypertension medications spironolactone and eplerenone, may help protect bone cells, says McGee-Lawrence, corresponding author of the study in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Drugs like prednisone are glucocorticoids, which are better known for their roles in reducing inflammation and suppressing the immune response, which is why they work so well for problems like irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis. But, like aging, they can also disrupt the healthy, ongoing dynamic of bone being made and being destroyed.

Our natural glucocorticoid levels increase with age, and bone, at least when we are young, has more glucocorticoid receptors than mineralocorticoid receptors. Glucocorticoids can actually coax stem cells to make bone-forming osteoblasts, but it also causes those osteoblasts to store more fat, and too much fat in the bone, like anywhere on our body, is probably not good and typically correlates with bone loss, McGee-Lawrence says.

So reducing the impact of glucocorticoid receptors seemed like a logical way to protect bone.

The MCG scientists had already been surprised to find that the loss of functioning glucocorticoid receptors did not protect against bone loss in younger mice on calorie-restricted diets. In fact, there was increased fat accumulation in the bone marrow and worsened osteoporosis.

This time they were looking at the impact of endogenous glucocorticoids in an aging model, and found again that when the glucocorticoid receptor was blocked, older mice also experienced more fat accumulation in the bone marrow and worsening bone disease.

They also found that the mice had a smaller muscle mass, chose to move around less than mice typically do and had higher blood pressure.

Another surprise was that when they used drugs to inhibit the mineralocorticoid receptor, many of the problems were reversed.

“The only way we have found to get rid of that lipid storage by osteoblasts was to inhibit the mineralocorticoid receptor with drugs,” she says, and fortunately because of the receptors’ clear role in blood pressure there are already drugs that do that.

“I think what it means is if we want to understand what these stress hormones, these endogenous glucocorticoids, are doing we cannot just think about signaling through one receptor,” McGee-Lawrence says. For older bone, she thinks mineralocorticoid receptors may be a better target.

“We thought that knocking out the glucocorticoid receptor would make things better, but it made them worse,” McGee-Lawrence says. “We think the mineralocorticoid receptor may explain a lot of what is going wrong in aging bone.”

Both receptors are members of the steroid receptor family and mineralocorticoid receptors are thought to have equal affinity for mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids. It may be the signaling paths are different in young and older individuals, she notes.

McGee-Lawrence and her colleagues already have some evidence that bone’s expression of mineralocorticoid receptors goes up, potentially significantly, as you age. They have early mixed results on whether glucocorticoid receptors go down with age and are exploring more about what happens with both receptor levels as well as learning more about the role of mineralocorticoid receptors in bone, particularly aging bone.

“We want to know what would cause bone cells to change which receptors they are expressing and how they are responding to these,” she says. “But there are a lot of things that happen with aging. We know inflammation changes with aging, so there are a lot of different cues that could cause these things to change.”

The whole body impact they saw from their manipulation of receptors, like a higher blood pressure from deleting the glucocorticoid receptor, also is evidence of bone’s importance as an endocrine organ, she says.

“By changing glucocorticoid signaling in the bone, not only are we seeing changes in the bone, but we are seeing changes in the fat, muscle, adrenal glands, in physical activity,” she says which means something from the bone is communicating with all these other body systems, an emerging role of research in her field.

In fact, the increased fat presence in the bone marrow found in osteoporosis has resulted in it also being considered a metabolic disease of the bone, much as obesity, particularly excess weight around the middle, is considered a metabolic disease. Increased fat in the bone marrow is associated with disuse, like following a spinal cord injury, a high-fat diet, taking glucocorticoids, like steroids, and aging.

While the fat is a ready energy source for bone cells, too much can hinder bone cell formation. The scientists don’t yet know whether the cells are no longer using fat well or they are pulling more in, or both; they do know fat accumulating in the bone cells coincides with less bone being made, she reiterates.

“We are trying to figure out exactly why these things are going wrong so that we can pick the right avenue to pursue for a treatment strategy,” she says.

There is a lot of evidence in people that the synthetic glucocorticoids we take via pill or injection, can impact bone, creating an unhealthy imbalance between the amount of bone made and the amount broken down.

A focus of the research at MCG has been examining the bone impact from our endogenous glucocorticoids, the ones we make, a less-explored area. For years, McGee-Lawrence and her colleagues have been studying bone-forming osteoblasts which, like most cells, don’t function optimally as we age.

But it may be that even synthetic glucocorticoids also work through these alternative receptors to damage the bone, which means trying to prevent their damage may also mean a different target, she says, noting again that the pathway may change as the person ages.

Interestingly some other tissues that are known to have a lot of mineralocorticoid receptors inactivate glucocorticoids, which bone cannot do, but perhaps it compensates by not having a lot of mineralocorticoid receptors, at least in youth, she says.

The adrenal gland makes both glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, production which becomes less well-regulated as we age.

The research was supported by the National Institute on Aging and the American Diabetes Association.

Read the full study.

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Annual Tri-College MLK Jr. Celebration to be held Jan. 14 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/annual-tri-college-mlk-jr-celebration-to-be-held-jan-14/ Wed, 05 Jan 2022 12:30:13 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108354 “Dr. Roscoe Williams is a living legend within our community. His trailblazing journey is so relevant to what Dr. King stood for and we’re truly blessed to feature him as our keynote for this year’s celebration,” said Dr. Garrett Green, director of Multicultural Student Engagement.]]>

Augusta University, Augusta Technical College and Paine College have partnered to host the annual Martin Luther King Jr. tri-college birthday celebration at noon Jan. 14 in the Maxwell Theatre.

This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Roscoe Williams, the first African American faculty or staff to be hired at Augusta College in 1970. He retired as dean of students in 1997 after 27 years of service. The Jaguar Student Activities Center Ballroom was recently named in his honor on Nov. 4.

“When I came in 1970, never did I think this day would happen or this would occur, that somebody would be so gracious as to recognize me, and I will be in turn indebted to them for the gesture,” Williams said at the dedication ceremony.

“Dr. Roscoe Williams is a living legend within our community. His trailblazing journey is so relevant to what Dr. King stood for and we’re truly blessed to feature him as our keynote for this year’s celebration,” said Dr. Garrett Green, director of Multicultural Student Engagement.

For guests who cannot attend in person, a virtual viewing option is available.

Email the Office of Diversity and Inclusion or the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement with questions. Download the event flyer.

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Clay Sprouse named VP for audit, compliance, ethics and risk management https://jagwire.augusta.edu/clay-sprouse-named-vp-for-audit-compliance-ethics-and-risk-management/ Tue, 04 Jan 2022 20:00:00 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108344 Clay Sprouse, chief audit officer at Augusta University, has been named vice president for audit, compliance, ethics and risk management, effective immediately.]]>

Clay Sprouse, chief audit officer at Augusta University, has been named vice president for audit, compliance, ethics and risk management, effective immediately.

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Clay Sprouse

Sprouse has served the university since 2012. He has a proven track record with over 25 years of experience in audit, finance, compliance and risk management across various industries to include state, local and federal government, higher education, retail and communications. He is also a double Jag, receiving both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Augusta University.

“Clay’s experience with policy and procedure improvements and dedication to the university will serve him well,” said Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD. “I have full confidence in his abilities to help nurture a culture of compliance and ensure our faculty, students and staff are well-versed in risk management resources and guidance.”

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Augusta University appoints Rebecca N. Carroll as vice president for human resources https://jagwire.augusta.edu/augusta-university-appoints-rebecca-n-carroll-as-vice-president-for-human-resources/ Tue, 04 Jan 2022 19:11:54 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108351 Rebecca N. Carroll has been appointed to serve as vice president for human resources at Augusta University, effective Feb. 1.]]>

Rebecca N. Carroll has been appointed to serve as vice president for human resources at Augusta University, effective Feb. 1.

Carroll has nearly 20 years of experience as a chief human resources officer. She served as the associate vice president of human resources and chief human resources officer at Georgia Southern University since 2016. Prior to her appointment at GSU, she served as Armstrong State University’s chief human resources officer.

Carroll received her undergraduate degree from Augusta University and master’s degree in adult education from Armstrong State University. She holds multiple industry certifications as a Senior Professional in Human Resources and SHRM Senior Certified Professional.

Carroll’s appointment comes as the result of an extensive national search. In partnership with the Witt-Kieffer search firm, an 18-member enterprise-wide committee evaluated more than 40 applicants for the position. The search committee held virtual interviews in November and on-campus interviews in mid-December.

“Ms. Carroll possesses strong, strategic human resources experience as well as extensive knowledge of the University System of Georgia,” said Dr. Karla Leeper, executive vice president of operations. “She is the right leader for this next phase of Augusta University’s growth. I am thrilled she is joining our team.”

“I am excited to return to my alma mater,” Carroll said. “I am looking forward to being a part of the Augusta University team to build a culture of care for our community.”

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New year, new student life: Learn how to get involved in 2022 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/new-year-new-student-life-learn-how-to-get-involved-in-2022/ Tue, 04 Jan 2022 18:21:23 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108249 Student Life will kick off the new year with new student organizations, a tabling fair and a toy drive benefiting local nonprofits.]]>

The start of a new semester brings new opportunities for students to get involved on campus.

Augusta University’s Office of Student Life and Engagement will host Club Fest from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Jaguar Student Activities Center.

Hosted each semester, this tabling fair helps students learn about the 100+ student organizations that Augusta University offers.

The event will be hosted jointly in the JSAC Breezeway and in the Dr. Roscoe Williams Ballroom.

New student organizations for spring 2022 include:

  • Electronics in Medicine Interest Group at the Medical College of Georgia
  • Medical Outreach Curriculum and Simulation
  • Pathology Interest Group
  • Give a Smile
  • Media Production
  • Chosen on Campus
  • Badminton/Pickleball Club
  • Vascular Surgery Interest Group
  • Coed Volleyball Club
  • Interprofessional Education Interest Group
  • Alpha Sigma Phi

See the full list of student organizations on JagLife.

Members of student organizations are encouraged to participate in Stuff the Stadium, a donation drive occurring at the men’s basketball game at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at Christenberry Fieldhouse.

At the event, Augusta University students, faculty, staff and community members are asked to bring new stuffed animals to the game, all of which will be tossed on the court after the Jags score their first point. All stuffed animals collected will be donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta and other local nonprofits.

Student organizations will compete to donate the most stuffed animals at the drive, but must register for the competition in advance by emailing Roberto Aragon, coordinator for student involvement. Students who donate as part of an organization must arrive by 7 p.m. so donations can be tallied.

For more information about Stuff the Stadium or Club Fest, call the Office of Student Life and Engagement at 706-729-2382.

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Award-winning author Jason Reynolds joins AU Writing Project Author Series https://jagwire.augusta.edu/award-winning-author-jason-reynolds-joins-au-writing-project-author-series/ Tue, 04 Jan 2022 17:07:54 +0000 https://jagwire.augusta.edu/?p=108287 Award-winning author Jason Reynolds has written more than a dozen best-selling books for young adults and middle-grade audiences.]]>

Jason Reynolds, an award-winning author of more than a dozen best-selling books for young adults and middle-grade audiences, will be speaking virtually at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8, as part of the Augusta University Writing Project Author Series.

Born in Washington, D.C., Reynolds found inspiration in rap music and began writing poetry at 9 years old. Reynolds published his own first novel, When I Was The Greatest, in 2014 and later won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for his work.

Reynolds’ many books include Long Way Down; the Track series with Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu; Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks; All American Boys; Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You; and Miles Morales: Spider Man. He is also the recipient of a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor and an NAACP Image Award. Ghost was also a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature. His latest book is called Stuntboy, in the Meantime.

He often tells his audiences that the first time he read a novel cover to cover was at the age of 17.

“Here’s what I know: I know there are a lot — a lot — of young people who hate reading,” Reynolds writes on his website. “I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys don’t actually hate books; they hate boredom.”

Speaking directly to the “book-hating boys” in the world, Reynolds writes, “Know that I feel you. I really do. Because even though I’m a writer, I hate reading boring books, too.”

Dr. Rebecca Harper, associate professor of language and literacy and director of the Augusta University Writing Project in the College of Education, said she was ecstatic when Reynolds agreed to virtually participate in the author series.

“Jason Reynolds is one of my very favorite authors,” Harper said, adding she had the pleasure of meeting him several years ago at the International Literacy Association Conference. “His books are so powerful because I think they speak to a number of voices that are underrepresented in literature. And he is able to connect with people who may not consider themselves readers.”

Harper said she particularly enjoys his book, Long Way Down, because it is written entirely in poems.

“I’ve even had adults tell me, ‘I’m not a reader, but I couldn’t put that book down,’” Harper said. “I think he has a way of bringing the world to the page.”

Reynolds simply has a way of relating to non-readers, Harper said.

“He recently did an interview on PBS where he talked about how when we have students who are afraid to read or don’t like to read, we hit them with multiple words and multiple pages. And he said something like, ‘You know, if I had someone who was afraid of dogs, I wouldn’t take them to go see a pack of pit bulls. Instead, I might take them to a puppy daycare,’” Harper said. “He said, ‘Poetry is kind of like that for students who might be afraid of the words. Poetry is a good gateway to get reluctant readers engaged.’”

When Harper started the author series in 2020, she said one of her top goals was to get Reynolds to participate.

“I started the author series on a whim, just as a way to connect people during the pandemic. It’s been kind of an accidental success, if you will,” Harper said. “The author series started taking off and, in my mind, I knew that we had definitely made it and it was successful when we got Jason Reynolds to participate. That was my goal pretty early on.”

Harper hopes the public will participate in the free, virtual event to hear Reynolds discuss his books and the art of storytelling.

“We are thrilled to have Jason Reynolds kicking off our spring series and we have several more authors participating later in the spring,” Harper said, adding she hopes to keep the author series continuing for many years to come. “Until people stop saying, ‘Yes, I’ll come and talk about my work,’ we’ll keep doing it.”

The public must register to participate in the Augusta University Writing Project Author Series featuring Jason Reynolds. The event is at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8.

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