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Looking at Our Genetic Future

On Tuesday, November 20, we had a spectacular moment when the breadth of expertise across our interprofessional health sciences was recognized and celebrated. Award ceremonies can be dry and (okay, I’m going to say it) dull. The Academies of Excellence program—with special thanks to Drs. Tucker LeBien, Christine Mueller, and Mark Paller, and co-coordinators Kelly Auxier and Kayleen Jacobson—was certainly not. The number of people who gathered to support the awardees and the truly celebratory feeling of the evening made it a joyous occasion. Thanks to everyone who made it possible.

Congratulations to the following outstanding faculty!

Excellence in Health Research
Dr. David Masopust – Medical School, Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology

Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
Dr. Ruth Lindquist – School of Nursing, Adult and Gerontological Health Cooperative
Dr. David Power – Medical School, Dept. of Family Medicine and Community Health
Dr. Traci Toomey – School of Public Health, Div. of Epidemiology and Community Health

Excellence in Health Care Practice
Dr. Soraya Beiraghi – School of Dentistry, Dept. of Developmental and Surgical Sciences
Dr. Kumar Belani – Medical School, Depts. of Anesthesiology and Pediatrics
Dr. Heather Blue – College of Pharmacy, Dept. of Pharmacy Practice and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Dr. Dennis Dykstra – Medical School, Dept. of Rehabilitation Medicine
Dr. Jon Hallberg – Medical School, Dept. of Family Medicine and Community Health
Dr. David Lee – College of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Medical Center
Dr. Sarah Westberg – College of Pharmacy, Dept. Of Pharmaceutical Care and Health Systems

Speaking of interprofessional excellence, the state-supported Minnesota Cancer Clinical Trials Network (MCCTN) is an outgrowth of our Masonic Cancer Center and the University’s land-grant mission designed to make participation in clinical trials accessible across the state. This program recognizes that greater Minnesota has needs that are different from the urban centers where we are located. There are worrisome statistics that go along with these differences. For example, people who live in rural zip codes or in geographical isolation have similar rates and types of cancer as their counterparts in the city, but they have a higher rate of diagnoses at stage 4—and thus higher mortality rates. Opening clinical trial sites in outstate communities will enable patients to access cutting-edge therapies closer to home, lifting the burden of travel and enabling a higher standard of care. This demands an interprofessional approach to care, outreach, and education, as studies will seek to prevent cancer, improve therapies for cancers, and provide a better quality of life for cancer survivors. The first investigator-initiated clinical trial, under PI Dr. Anna Prizment, is the GINGER trial, which will examine the role of ginger on the gut microbiome and if its anti-inflammatory impact can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Trial sites are open in Mankato and Monticello, with more than a dozen additional sites planned.

Right now we are getting used to some new roles, so it seems like a good time to talk about what these involve, starting with the Associate Vice President for the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs (OACA).  The AVP will have as primary duties to expand and enhance our interprofessional clinical training, to convene clinical leads from across the University so we can learn from and collaborate with each other to impact health care, and to work closely with our health system and community partners. As we continue to create a united University approach to healthcare delivery, the OACA needs to know what initiatives exist and are planned so that we can build on them and support them with all of our interprofessional resources. Please let us know what we can do to help and to move them forward smoothly.

We have the ability to focus together on our land-grant mission and to find ways to direct our shared knowledge, skills, and technologies to improve the lives of others.

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