Faculty and Staff News
COVID-19 vaccine study underway at IU School of Medicine
IU School of Medicine announced this week that several Hoosier volunteers are now enrolled in the late-stage clinical study of an investigational COVID-19 vaccine known as AZD1222. The study is underway at Indiana University Health University Hospital.
Within days of announcing IU School of Medicine as one of the study sites, more than 3,000 Hoosiers created volunteer profiles through All IN for Health, a program of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI). The Indiana CTSI is a research partnership among Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame, created to educate the Indiana public about health research, including clinical studies, like the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial.
“We would like to thank the more than 3,000 Hoosiers who signed up as volunteers to participate in this vaccine study,” said Jay L. Hess, MD, PhD, MHSA, dean of IU School of Medicine and IU’s executive vice president for university clinical affairs. “Your commitment to helping us advance life-saving medical research is deeply appreciated and valued.”
For more on the study, visit the Newsroom.
A note from the dean: Taking care this holiday season
Editor’s note: Below is the full text of a message from IU School of Medicine Dean Jay L. Hess, MD, PhD, MHSA. The message was emailed on Wednesday, November 18.
Temperatures are dropping, COVID-19 cases are surging and the holidays are just around the corner—a dangerous combination that is putting a strain on many in our school community.
This will be a holiday season like none other. Under normal circumstances, this time of year is spent with family and friends. However, because of the escalating threat of COVID-19, we must all carefully consider the risks of holiday gatherings that include people from outside our day-to-day bubbles.
If this pandemic has reminded us of anything, it is the importance of the work being done at IU School of Medicine. Our clinical faculty and residents are the frontline force battling this disease. Our medical students are working alongside them as they continue their education and care for patients during this difficult time. In our labs, our researchers and graduate students continue their important work from understanding basic mechanisms of disease to developing new therapies.
All of this work is essential. Which is why I ask that we all dig in through these next several months and make good decisions when considering holiday travel and get-togethers.
The promising news on the vaccine front provides a potential light at the end of this tunnel, but now is not the time to let our guard down. To our faculty, staff, residents, fellows and students—let’s redouble our efforts to stay healthy so we can continue our crucial work as we look forward to a better 2021.
Together, we’ll get through this.
Jay L. Hess, MD, PhD, MHSA
Executive Vice President for University Clinical Affairs
Dean of the School of Medicine
Robling named chair of anatomy, cell biology and physiology
IU School of Medicine has named Alexander G. Robling, PhD, chair of the Department of Anatomy, Cell Biology and Physiology. His new appointment begins January 1.
“Dr. Robling’s visionary leadership and proven commitment to education, professional development and mentorship make him uniquely qualified for this role,” said Jay L. Hess, MD, PhD, MHSA, dean of IU School of Medicine and IU’s executive vice president for university clinical affairs. “We will be relying heavily on his leadership to advance the research and education missions of the school.”
Robling joined the IU School of Medicine faculty in 2003 and rose through the ranks to professor in 2015. He was a recipient of the IU Trustees’ Teaching Award in 2015 and was named a Showalter Scholar in 2013. His research encompasses finding therapies and treatment strategies for a variety of metabolic and genetic skeletal diseases.
“I am truly humbled by the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues in this role,” Robling said. “I have a deep appreciation for the work of our teaching and research faculty and am excited to accomplish even more together.”
In addition to chair, Robling will hold the title of Vincent H. Gattone II Professor. Robling succeeds Kathryn Jones, PhD, who announced her intent to retire earlier this year.
For more on Robling’s appointment, visit the Newsroom.
Sharing Joy Project invites submissions of original creative works
What has brought you joy through the difficulties of 2020? All members of the IU School of Medicine and IU Health communities are invited to submit their creative works for the Sharing Joy Project, a virtual exhibit intended to build community, share ideas and express positivity during this unprecedented time.
Reflecting on the unique challenges of 2020, members of IU Health and IU School of Medicine at all levels—staff, students, residents, fellows, faculty and administrators—have continued to perform their duties and engage in patient care, education and research despite the incredible stressors brought by COVID-19, along with civil and political unrest. Many have found ways to be hopeful, share joy, demonstrate resilience and process the uncertainties of 2020 through creative endeavors.
Anyone affiliated with IU Health or IU School of Medicine is invited to submit original works of art, stories, music, writing, photographs, favorite recipes, videos of hobbies and activities—anything that brings personal joy.
There is significant data to support that being grateful and seeking joy is associated with overall well-being. The Sharing Joy Project seeks to inspire everyone in the academic and health care community to find joy in their own life and elevate the collective community values of compassion, team building, purpose, diversity, respect and cooperation.
Join the Joy Movement
Submissions will be reviewed for acceptability for public display by the project review panel and will remain the property of the submitter. View all submission guidelines and submit your entry here.
Next INScope is December 3; take note of holiday schedule
INScope will take a one-week break due to the Thanksgiving holiday and will not be distributed on Thursday, November 26. The e-newsletter will return to inboxes on Thursday, December 3. The final issue of 2020 will be published on Thursday, December 17, with weekly publication resuming in the new year on January 7.
Still have news to share in 2020? Submit news items for the December issues as soon as possible to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Researcher receives $2.9 million for work improving effectiveness of lung cancer radiation therapy
John Turchi, PhD, Tom and Julie Wood Family Foundation Professor of Lung Cancer Research, has been awarded a five-year, $2.9 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop a drug that could make radiation therapy far more effective.
Turchi is studying the DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK), which is involved in repairing DNA double-strand breaks. When a cancer patient undergoes radiation therapy, the radiation intentionally causes these DNA breaks to kill the cancer cells.
“In the case of radiation therapy, the repair of those breaks is a bad thing,” Turchi said. “It allows the cancer cells to continue to divide. Being able to block that repair pathway through inhibitors of the DNA-PK protein allows us to increase the efficacy of radiation therapy.”
The research focuses on solid tumors that receive radiation therapy as part of treatment, with lung cancer as the main effort. The therapeutic would be given along with radiation.
Visit the Newsroom for more details on the therapy.
Cancer center researcher receives $1.3 million grant to improve breast cancer treatment for Black women
Harikrishna Nakshatri, PhD, Marian J. Morrison Professor of Breast Cancer Research at IU School of Medicine, has received a $1.3 million grant from the Department of Defense – Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program’s breast cancer research program. The grant will allow Nakshatri to continue to characterize unique biomarkers within the normal breasts of Black women and how that impacts health disparities in breast cancer.
The research could lead to improved treatments for Black women, who face a higher mortality rate for breast cancer.
“The vast majority of people think of health disparities from the point of view of socioeconomic factors, but we are looking at the biologic factors or the biologic basis of health disparities,” Nakshatri said. “This doesn’t account for all cases of health disparity, but there is a certain section where it may inform treatment.”
For more on Nakshatri’s research, visit the Newsroom.
Alzheimer’s funding at IU School of Medicine continues to grow
Funding for Alzheimer’s disease research has grown significantly at IU School of Medicine in recent years. The school is ranked fifth in the U.S. for funding from the National Institute on Aging, the largest funding branch for Alzheimer’s disease research within the National Institutes of Health. Many IU investigators who were awarded this funding belong to both Stark Neurosciences Research Institute and the Indiana Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Read the Research Updates blog post for more on IU School of Medicine’s leadership in Alzheimer’s research.
Faculty and Staff News
Remembering Adam Spaetti, MD
Adam Spaetti, MD, adjunct clinical assistant professor of medicine, passed away on Saturday, November 14. A resident of Solsberry, Indiana, Dr. Spaetti practiced internal medicine at IU Health in Bloomington. He completed both his undergraduate degree and medical school training at Indiana University, graduating from IU School of Medicine in 2004.
“While I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Spaetti, I have heard from many that he was a friend to our medical school and students,” said Katherine Hiller, MD, associate dean, IU School of Medicine–Bloomington. “A family man and a cornerstone of the Bloomington community, he is remembered by those who knew him well as being that rare thing—a truly good man. Our thoughts go out to his family in this incredibly tragic time.”
Services for Dr. Spaetti were held earlier this week; see the obituary for more information.
IU School of Medicine offers support for the school community. Available resources include Mental Health Services for MD Students, Residents and Fellows; the SupportLinc Employee Assistance Program for IU Employees; and IU Health Chaplaincy Services. (For IU Health Chaplaincy Services, contact Deborah Butt at 317-403-7962 or Joe Colquitt at 317-270-8609.)
Faculty: Deadline to complete StandPoint survey is November 30
More than 2,900 full-time IU School of Medicine faculty received an email in October inviting participation in a national Association of American Medical Colleges workplace engagement survey called StandPoint. This comprehensive survey covers important topics such as workplace culture, departmental and school governance, faculty recruitment/retention efforts, wellness, and diversity, equity and inclusion.
Faculty members may complete the survey until Monday, November 30. Faculty are encouraged to share openly their views and experiences. Confidentiality of individual responses is protected with the support of the IU Center for Survey Research. IU School of Medicine has set a goal of at least 40 percent participation in the survey.
Next spring, a summary report will be shared with each chair and regional campus to support data-driven discussions regarding faculty vitality and organizational development. For more information or questions, contact Amy Ribera, PhD, or visit StandPoint Faculty Engagement Survey.
Questions about 2020 year-end payroll? Get the details
As December approaches, the IU School of Medicine Dean’s Office payroll team is providing important year-end payroll information. Details regarding paid time off (PTO) limits, floating holiday usage and final pay periods are included in the documents linked below. Questions? Email IUSMPay@iu.edu.
State program seeks to boost workforce in response to COVID-19
Health care providers who are retired or licensed in other states are among those targeted by a new program to reinforce the health care workforce in response to COVID-19. “Rise Up. Respond. Reinforce Our Hoosier Healthcare Heroes” aims to encourage professionals from every health care-related profession, at any level of training (including students), to consider participating in this statewide initiative.
The Indiana Department of Health collaborated with the Bowen Center to create a process that connects available healthcare professionals with healthcare facilities that need personnel. Learn more.
Save the date: Cultural awareness town hall on systemic racism and COVID-19 is January 28
Systemic health and social inequities contribute to many people from racial and ethnic minority groups having an increased risk of dying from COVID-19. Breanca Merritt, PhD, director of the IU Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy, will share critical lessons learned from the pandemic during a cultural awareness town hall on Thursday, January 28, at noon. Register for the Zoom session.
IU Health updates visitor guidance in response to surge
As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, IU Health updated its visitor guidance to prevent spread, minimize the traffic within its buildings and keep patients, families and team members safe. Beginning today, no visitors are allowed in IU Health hospitals. Some exceptions may be considered; visitors must screen negative and will be provided a mask, which must be worn at all times. Visit iuhealth.org for a list of exceptions and more details.
Pin code access changes at IU Health coming December 1
If you use a pin number/pin pad to access a secure area at the IU Health adult academic health center, Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health or an Indianapolis suburban region (ISR) hospital or facility, changes are coming on Tuesday, December 1. Access pin numbers are being discontinued because they are insecure, are easily shared and are not traceable or trackable to individual users.
Keypads at secure entry points will be disabled, first at the AAHC (Methodist and University hospitals) and Riley, then at ISR locations (North, West and Saxony hospitals), with completion targeted for Thursday, December 31. All individuals who now use a pin number to access secure areas must use an IU Health identification badge (or access card issued by IU Health) at badge readers. This will enhance security by making it possible to view and track access as ID badges are used.
Access pin numbers are primarily used by physicians, OB and pediatric unit visitors and delivery drivers.
- Physicians and other team membersshould verify IU Health badge access where pin codes are currently in use. If an IU Health ID does not grant access to the secure area, physicians and team members must visit the facility’s police department or security office for badge permission updates.
- Pediatric and maternity units will adopt a model to ensure visitors have easy access to these units. ISR will target having measures in place by December 31 to accommodate visitor needs.
- Delivery driverswho need access to secure areas should visit the facility’s police department or security office for assistance.