Engineering: Summer camp uses LEGOs to build skills

IMG_1439-featureConstruction activity around VCU is not all that unusual but recently at the VCU Carver Community Center, the builders were children and their projects, created out of LEGO® bricks and gears, were designed to help them build new skills as they learned about engineering.

The 36 builders, all between the ages of 5 and 11, took part in a summer camp meant to introduce future engineers to fundamental principles of engineering and physics. The morning and afternoon camps, a partnership between the VCU Division of Community Engagement and Play-Well TEKnologies, was designed to spark creativity, boost confidence and teach the children how to work together to solve challenges.

“Play-Well contacted us to gauge our interest in hosting the camp,” said Tito Luna, neighborhood outreach director at the Division of Community Engagement. “We looked into it and thought it would be a great idea since it promotes engineering and we have a School of Engineering and we want to promote that field to our youth.”

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Social Work, Pharmacy, Medicine: VCU students team up to control diabetes

From left: Students Beth Flippin, Lauren Gray and Jasmin Singh work with CrossOver Healthcare Ministry clinic diabetes patient Jose Catalano.

From left: Students Beth Flippin, Lauren Gray and Jasmin Singh work with CrossOver Healthcare Ministry clinic diabetes patient Jose Catalano.

CrossOver Healthcare Ministry, a Richmond-based health clinic that delivers pro bono medical care to low-income uninsured individuals, brings together volunteers, staff and learners from various disciplines — in keeping with a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach to patient care. CrossOver provides primary care, dental, vision, counseling, pharmacy and a number of subspecialties at each of its two health centers.

This collaborative environment recently resulted in a new student-driven project designed to help Latino patients struggling to control their diabetes and also to teach students how to work with a health care team.

This spring, we — Virginia Commonwealth University students Beth Flippin, School of Pharmacy, and Lauren Gray, School of Social Work — worked with School of Medicine student Jasmin Singh, School of Pharmacy faculty member Sallie Mayer and other CrossOver health care providers to offer additional one-on-one bilingual diabetes education, psychological support and case-management for Latinos with diabetes.

Read more from The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Athletics: Rams hope to begin building basketball practice facility soon

VCU expects to have the footings poured for its basketball practice facility in mid-August, and Tim Lampe, the director of facilities and Siegel Center operations, said he expects construction to “move pretty quick” thereafter.

The $25 million, two-story building is expected to be completed by October 2015, in time for the basketball season.

Demolition work on the buildings on the corner of Kinney and Marshall streets, across from the Siegel Center, began about a month ago. Lampe said that work is expected to be finished this week.

The 60,000-square-foot building will house two practice courts — one each for men’s and women’s basketball — as well as locker rooms, coaches’ offices, strength and conditioning areas, a sports medicine center with a hydrotherapy room, viewing decks, lounges and a dining room for players, an academic center, a laundry and equipment room and video viewing rooms.

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Pharmacy: VCU receives $3M grant to study molecular marks

Pharm grant-3 mil-featureVirginia Commonwealth University has received a five-year, $3 million grant to study how adverse experiences such as severe illnesses, neglect and maltreatment during childhood leave molecular marks in DNA that predict health risks later in life.

The Center for Biomarker Research and Personalized Medicine at the VCU School of Pharmacy, in collaboration with Duke University School of Medicine, will conduct the five-year study, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health.

“Childhood adverse experiences such as severe illness, neglect or maltreatment have been robustly linked to psychiatric and other medical conditions where the consequences often persist far into adulthood,” said Edwin van den Oord, Ph.D., director of the Center for Biomarker Research and Personalized Medicine and principal investigator on the study. “Our goal is to study how these early adverse experiences become biologically embedded and how they create long-term health risks.”

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H&S: VCU, Iraqi students boost social media for nonprofits

edit_IMG_7691Ali Al Yousif, a medical student from Basra, Iraq, is part of a team of young Iraqis and Virginia Commonwealth University students working to improve the social media strategy of Goodwill Industries of Hampton Roads and Central Virginia.

“They do very, very good work,” Al Yousif said. “They have a Community Employment Center. They [offer] courses and develop skills for people to give them a career so they can work. But they are mostly viewed as [just] thrift stores. So we’re trying to change that image through social media – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.”

Al Yousif is one of 23 young Iraqis and 19 VCU students who are taking part in VCU’s fifth annual Social Media Institute, a four-week summer course in which teams of Iraqi and VCU students develop social media strategies on behalf of 10 nonprofit organizations.

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A summer of real-life research

This summer, seven Virginia Commonwealth University undergraduate research trainees are expanding their knowledge, mastering the skill of critical thinking and digging deep to find answers to their questions through real-life research in laboratories at partner universities across the country.

For the first time since the launch of the VCU Center on Health Disparities research training programs, students are venturing beyond the VCU campus to engage in hands-on learning at Brandeis University, Harvard University, University of California at San Diego, University of Michigan, University of Miami and University of Oregon.

Five of the students are current participants in VCU Center on Health Disparities research and training programs, including Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity Scholars program and Minority Access to Research Careers. Two of the undergraduates are future participants of the IMSD or MARC programs.

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VCU student first in Richmond auditions to advance to next round of ‘American Idol’

Hamm_Joi-featureJoi Hamm, a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University and a specialist in the U.S. Army, was among a handful of “American Idol” contestants who advanced to the next round of auditions this week when the singing competition’s bus was in Richmond.

Hamm – a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with the Army – sang Etta James’ “At Last,” earning her a spot at the second round of auditions, which will be held Aug. 10 in Kansas City, Missouri.

“I sang ‘At Last’ because it’s a pretty short song and I thought I could get the judge’s attention pretty quickly,” Hamm said. “And also because it really brings out my voice. I like to sing high notes.”

The chance to audition for “American Idol” in Richmond drew an estimated 6,500 hopefuls to Bank Street in front of the state Capitol on Monday. Hamm camped out the night before.

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Social Work: Racial/ethnic disparities and alcohol services



Very few national studies have examined racial/ethnic disparities in the use of alcohol services. In addition, little is known about whether racial/ethnic disparities generalize across genders, and what factors may account for any disparities. A study of the combined impact of race/ethnicity and gender on alcohol services utilization has found a pattern of lower services utilization among Latinos and Blacks, versus Whites, and women, versus men.

“We see higher rates of abstinence from drinking in Latina and Black women in the U.S. population compared to White men and women,” added Karen G. Chartier, assistant professor in research in the School of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University. “These differences in abstinence may distract from the treatments needs of Latina and Black women who are experiencing drinking problems. Additionally, the conversation about racial/ethnic minority group access to health care is often overly focused on health insurance and the higher proportion of Latinos and Blacks who are uninsured or publically insured compared to Whites. Public insurance is often identified as a barrier to accessing general health care services, while in relation to alcohol treatment, public versus private insurance can be associated with the increased utilization of alcohol treatment services, although this relationship is complex.”

Read more from Medical FacXpress.

Arts: ‘Terrifying and magical’ award gratifies professor

mannequin-scrnsht-featureA student visiting Elizabeth King’s Church Hill studio noticed an interesting mannequin in a display case.

“Is that a print?” the student asked, thinking it was a 3-D printed piece.

King, a sculptor and professor in the Department of Sculpture + Extended Media in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, was astounded that anyone could confuse a carefully crafted sculpture with a 3-D print.

The episode illuminates the generational chasm between those under 20 for whom high-tech devices such as smartphones and portable computers have always been the norm, and those over 40, who grew up with rotary phones and typewriters.

It also adds poignancy to news that King is one of 10 recipients of this year’s Anonymous Was A Woman award, a $25,000 grant for women artists over 40 who are at a critical moment in their lives or careers.

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Health System: VCU, Community Memorial Healthcenter celebrate affiliation

Wayne Parrish, chairman of the CMH Board of Directors; Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU and the VCU Health System; Scott Burnette, CMH president and CEO

Wayne Parrish, chairman of the CMH Board of Directors; Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU and the VCU Health System; Scott Burnette, CMH president and CEO

Representatives of the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System and Community Memorial Healthcenter (CMH) in South Hill, Va., signed an affiliation agreement on Friday to join operations on July 1. With the agreement, which was celebrated at a community ceremony and reception in South Hill, CMH is renamed VCU Community Memorial Hospital and is part of the VCU Health System.

The affiliation will expand the range and depth of health care delivery for residents of Southside Virginia and northern North Carolina. Under the agreement, the VCU Health System will commit a minimum of $75 million in new strategic investments in CMH, including a new hospital facility, health care technologies, clinical initiatives and physician recruitment.

VCU and CMH representatives addressed a crowd of nearly 300 leaders, employees and community members. Virginia Sen. Frank Ruff and Del. Tommy Wright were in the audience and were recognized for supporting efforts to improve health care in the region.

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