VCU awarded $1M to engage more students in science regardless of background

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has selected 33 colleges and universities, including Virginia Commonwealth University, for its 2018 Inclusive Excellence initiative, which aims to help schools find ways to engage more students in science ­­­— especially those from underrepresented groups, such as minorities, first-generation students, and working adults with families.

The 33 selected schools join the 24 selected in 2017, making a total of 57 schools that will each receive $1 million in grant support over five years. The schools will work with the institute and its partner, the Association of American Colleges & Universities, to implement culture change.

Read more.

Kaveh Akbar wins 21st annual Levis Reading Prize for ‘Calling a Wolf a Wolf’

Headshot of Kaveh Akbar.

As the winner of the Levis Reading Prize, Kaveh Akbar joins a list of celebrated past recipients, including Solmaz Sharif for “Look” and Rickey Laurentiis for “Boy with Thorn.” (Courtesy photo)

Kaveh Akbar is the winner of the 2018 Levis Reading Prize for his poetry collection “Calling a Wolf a Wolf.”

The Levis Reading Prize is awarded annually for the best first or second book of poetry published in the previous calendar year and chosen by the Department of English and its MFA in Creative Writing program in the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The prize honors the memory of poet Larry Levis, who served on the VCU faculty at the time of his death in 1996. Akbar will receive a $5,000 award and will read from “Calling a Wolf a Wolf” on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. at the James Branch Cabell Library, followed by a reception in his honor.

Read more.

Massey becomes first treatment center in Virginia to offer FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapy

3d illustration of a cancer cell and lymphocytes.

Medical illustration of a T-cell attacking cancer.

VCU Massey Cancer Center is now an official treatment center for Yescarta by Kite Pharma for adult patients living with certain types of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (recurrent or refractory B-cell lymphoma), making it the first treatment center in Virginia to offer an FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapy. Massey, in partnership with Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, also will soon be offering another FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapy, KYMRIAH by Novartis, for children and young adults with recurrent or refractory B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Read more.

VCU Alumni announces regional chapter name changes to reflect broader inclusive commitment

The VCU Alumni RVA GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) and DMV GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) chapters have changed their names to Richmond Chapter and DMV Chapter, respectively. The name changes reflect VCU Alumni’s broader commitment to be more inclusive of all alumni in geographical regions and to shape the future of alumni engagement.

Continue reading

The sprint to SpaceX: Inside VCU’s dash to beat the clock — and the odds — at the Hyperloop finals

The frame and shell of the VCU Hyperloop team's pod.

An interdisciplinary team from VCU is attempting to design and build the best transport pod for Hyperloop, a high-speed ground transportation concept advanced by SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk.

At 6 p.m. on the most beautiful Saturday in June, five sleep-deprived students hunch silently around a table as a fluorescent light hums overhead. A wrench or drill occasionally cuts through the quiet. But there are few words. Like athletes or surgeons, they know the task — and each other’s rhythms — well enough to speak in the shorthand of nods, gestures and eye contact.

They have been here all day and will stay until coffee doesn’t work anymore. Would they rather be somewhere else? Not a chance. What’s a day at the beach compared with a shot at changing the world?

For the past 10 months, Hyperloop at Virginia Commonwealth University has been beating the odds and beating the clock in a dash to build the best high-speed pod vehicle to race at Elon Musk’s 2018 SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in Hawthorne, California. A Hyperloop is a sealed tube free of air resistance or friction through which a pod vehicle travels at ultra-high speeds.

As SpaceX develops this proposed alternative to high-speed rail, student teams from universities worldwide compete for a slot in its annual pod competition. Hyperloop at VCU battled past challenges that eliminated hundreds of other hopefuls from around the globe. Now they are among the elites eyeing the finish line.

Last fall and winter, Hyperloop at VCU advanced through two preliminary rounds to become one of only 11 teams in the United States, and one of just 20 internationally, to earn a spot in the final round of SpaceX’s Hyperloop Competition on July 22. They’re working day and night in pursuit of maximum speed.

Read more.

Thousands of women with breast cancer may be spared chemotherapy, landmark study shows

Infusion pump feeding IV drip into patients arm focus on needle

The 12-year TAILORx study, co-authored by a VCU Massey Cancer Center physician-researcher, shows chemotherapy does not increase disease-free survival rates for women with early stage breast cancer and an intermediate risk of recurrence.

Seventy percent of women with the most common type of newly diagnosed breast cancer can now be identified and safely skip chemotherapy, according to the results of a landmark 12-year clinical research study.

Data from the Trial Assigning Individualized Options for Treatment show that chemotherapy does not increase disease-free survival rates for women with early stage breast cancer and an intermediate risk of recurrence determined by the Oncotype DX Recurrence Score test. The study was designed to more precisely determine the effect of chemotherapy, if any, for women with hormone receptor (HR)-positive, HER2-negative, axillary lymph node-negative breast cancer.

The findings, recently presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, are expected to inform treatment decisions for thousands of breast cancer patients.

Read more.

VCU Health surgeon is first on East Coast to complete robotic-assisted kidney implantation

A team of doctors leaning over a patient on an operating table.

Robotic-assisted transplantation is the latest technical milestone in kidney transplant surgery and demands a level of technical expertise that few transplant centers in the country possess.

A surgeon at the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center is the first on the East Coast to successfully complete a kidney implantation using the da Vinci Surgical System. Along with an interdisciplinary medical team, Chandra Bhati, M.D., associate professor of surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, implanted a kidney from a living organ donor to a recipient on June 19. During robotic-assisted kidney implantations, the surgeon relies on the surgical system’s robotic arms to complete the procedure and does not use hands to assist with the surgery.

“With this surgery, we are able to offer kidney transplantation to obese people who traditionally have been denied the procedure,” Bhati said, emphasizing that the main benefit of robotic-assisted kidney transplantation is the availability to people who are obese. In obese people whose body mass index is between 35 and 40, the wound infection rate with traditional kidney transplantation is between 30 and 40 percent. The increased risk of infections and other complications leads most transplant surgeons to recommend against kidney transplantation for obese patients.

Read more.

Bucket Brigade: Office of Sustainability interns design, transform buckets at Monroe Park Campus Learning Garden

Volunteers planting crops in buckets at the Monroe Park Campus Learning Garden.

Volunteers plant crops in buckets at the Monroe Park Campus Learning Garden.

Interns in the Office of Sustainability have decorated more than 125 food-grade buckets to create a colorful border — and more growing space — for the Monroe Park Campus Learning Garden. The garden, located behind the Cary Street Parking Deck, grows food for donation to Virginia Commonwealth University’s RamPantry and the nonprofit Center for Healthy Hearts.

“We are increasing our growing space at a low cost, fostering creative expression through art and ensuring the best portable growing environment for our veggies,” said Erin Stanforth, director of sustainability. “By cultivating an imaginative environment in our garden, we hope it will attract more interested community members to be involved.”Designs vary from simple stripes to an elaborate replica of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album cover — complete with beetles replacing John, Paul, George and Ringo on the crosswalk. Other buckets feature a “give peas a chance” design, ice cream cones and windmills.

Read more.

CHoR named one of nation’s best children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report

 

Exterior shot of the Children's Hospital of Richmond (2016).

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU is the only hospital in Virginia to rank in the nephrology and pulmonology categories in U.S. News & World Report’s latest rankings of best children’s hospitals.

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU in its new 2018-19 Best Children’s Hospitals rankings. 

CHoR is the only hospital in Virginia to rank in the nephrology and pulmonology categories. The hospital rose from No. 45 to No. 41 in nephrology and ranked No. 43 in pulmonology. This is the fifth time CHoR has been ranked for kidney care and its first ranking in pulmonology.

“I’m truly proud of our team for earning this national recognition — not for the acknowledgement or the shiny badges — but for the thousands of children from Virginia and beyond who benefit from our kidney and respiratory programs,” said Elias Neujahr, CEO of CHoR. “Our decrease in asthma-related emergency room visits, excellent outcomes for patients with cystic fibrosis, and impressive kidney transplant program are all examples of how we are dedicated to continuing to advance children’s health in our community. Families can find expert care in all of pediatric medicine close to home.”

Read more.

VCU receives $2.7M to study use of anti-inflammatory medicine for treatment of heart failure

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded a $2.7 million grant to Virginia Commonwealth University’s Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine to evaluate the use of anti-inflammatory therapy to treat heart failure.

The grant will fund a clinical trial with 102 heart-disease patients. Researchers will investigate if reducing inflammation in the heart muscle can improve the patients’ health and reduce the need for hospitalization. Researchers expect to begin enrolling patients later this year.

It is the fourth NIH grant for the research team that is co-led by Benjamin Van Tassell, Pharm.D., vice chair for clinical research and associate professor in the VCU School of Pharmacy Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science, and Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D., vice chair of the Division of Cardiology in the VCU School of Medicine. The current study will build on encouraging results from a smaller 2016 study also funded by the NIH.

Read more.