Miami magazine Online

Noteworthy News and Research at the University of Miami
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UM Shines as Presidential Debate Host
American Splendor

Homes are a Hallmark of Miami’s Postwar Years
Living History
Donor Generosity Keeps the Momentum Going
Upwardly Mobile
 

Tissue-Tek Yields Pathology Results in Record Time
Waves of the Future

University Listens to Students’ Napster Needs

 

Honoring a Visionary

Men’s Basketball Coach Ready to Make Hoop Dreams Come True
In Good Haith
 

Model UN Team Wins at National Conference
Practicing Politics

SPARE Yourself

Ugarriza Completes Fulbright Mission in Cyprus
Nursing Fragile Ties

Miami Project Researchers Take a Giant Leap Toward Curing Paralysis
Striking a Nerve
Go Figure

 

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UM SHINES AS PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE HOST
American Splendor

n an interview with The Miami Herald about hosting the first U.S. presidential debate of 2004, University President Donna E. Shalala said, “Our students will have the greatest bragging rights, when they go home for the holidays, of any students in the country.” While it’s true that “Bumping into [CNN anchor] Wolf Blitzer does something for you,” quips sophomore business major Thomas Falconer, celebrity sightings are just one of the reasons September 30 was so momentous.

“We walked a lot taller the day after the most successful and historic event ever held on campus,” says Alan Fish, vice president of Business Services, which coordinated food service; parking, transportation, and safety; furniture and equipment delivery; and other logistics. “That night 63 million people saw a seamless performance, and we are proud to have been a part of it.”

More than 3,000 members of the media, the most ever credentialed for a presidential debate, set up shop at the Wellness Center, where they watched the showdown between President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry at the Convocation Center and gained post-debate analysis from pundits in Spin Alley. More than 350,000 feet of newly laid cable in the Wellness and Convocation Centers enabled worldwide coverage via 50 network hubs.

“I never had a doubt we could do it,” says Stewart Seruya, chief network officer of Information Technology’s Department of Telecom-munications. “And it was on the heels of four hurricane threats and an extremely busy back-to-school period.”

Inside the Convocation Center, 250 students—the most ever to watch a political debate live on a college campus—enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The ticket-holders were student leaders and debate essay contest winners. At the University Center, flanked by live broadcasts from MSNBC and CNN, the Debate Watch Party hosted 4,500 University students, faculty, and staff. Grammy winner Jill Scott and nominee Vanessa Carlton closed out the evening after midnight.

On television and in more than 350 daily papers the next day, the University received kudos for hosting a remarkable event, one that loomed nearly unfathomable less than a year prior. Upon being named a host by the Commission on Presidential Debates, the entire Univer-sity community rallied to create a rapid-fire itinerary themed “Celebrating American Democracy and Diversity.”

The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida was the primary underwriter of the event.

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DONOR GENEROSITY KEEPS THE MOMENTUM GOING
Upwardly Mobile

ust over a year ago, the University of Miami publicly launched its Momentum fundraising campaign at the $552 million mark. As of November 1, the University had reached more than $671 million toward its billion-dollar goal, logging some record-setting trends along the way.

Fiscal year 2004, which ended in May, brought in more than $125 million in private cash, gifts, and grants, an increase of 36 percent from the previous year. This includes a landmark $33 million gift from then-chairman of the Board of Trustees Phillip Frost and his wife Patricia, naming the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music. Following the Frosts’ generous example, trustee annual participation reached 100 percent.

Contributions from 17,000-plus alumni last year boosted alumni giving by 35 percent, with gifts totaling more than $10 million.

Overall, 38,997 donors made 50,798 contributions last year to support the University’s strategic priorities —scholarships for students, endowed chairs and professorships for world-class faculty, and state-of-the-art facilities for teaching, research, patient care, and student housing. One way the University recognizes the generosity of these individuals and organizations is in an Honor Roll listing, now available online.

Campaign fundraising this year received a jump start with a $10 million gift from Miguel (Mike) Fernandez, chairman and CEO of several Florida-based health care companies. The largest gift ever to the School of Business Administration, it supports construction of the Miguel B. Fernandez Family Entrepre-neurship Building, designed by architect Michael Graves.

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University Listens to Students’ Napster Needs

hen Shawn Fanning, reportedly nicknamed Napster as a reference to his hair, wrote the code for the most notorious Internet song-swapping program, he couldn’t have anticipated the enormity of the two-year boom-bust cycle he would create. The freeware service went offline in 2001 after facing a copyright infringement lawsuit, but a new, legal version has been launched by Roxio, a digital media software company that purchased Napster last year. And through the diligent efforts of Student Government president Vance Aloupis, University of Miami students will have their Napster needs fulfilled.

“Napster will help promote concerts and attract musical artists to campus while also working with our student-run radio station, WVUM-FM, to make popular tracks available,” says Aloupis, a political science major who persuaded the University administration to bring Napster to campus after he learned it was the students’ top request.

Aloupis notes that the subscription-run service—which offers a 750,000-song catalog, commercial-free Internet radio stations, six decades of Billboard’s historic chart information, and an online magazine—can be a valuable resource for music-related research and assignments. The University is not the first academic institution to sign on, but each institution’s agreement for service is unique. Users can download an unlimited amount of music to their computer hard drives, but they must pay a fee if they want to transfer songs to a CD or MP3 player.

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MEN’S BASKETBALL COACH READY TO MAKE HOOP DREAMS COME TRUE
In Good Haith

n a city where college football reigns supreme, University of Miami men’s basketball coach Frank Haith is about to create hoops hysteria.

The 38-year-old Haith was hired last April to lead a Miami basketball program that marches boldly into the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, and his ACC roots will undoubtedly give him an edge. A North Carolina native, he was an assistant coach from 1997 to 2001 at Wake Forest.

The mystique of the ACC looms large. Arguably the premier college basketball conference in the nation, it has produced a slew of NCAA championships and NBA legends such as Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan. But Haith is more than ready for the challenge—the biggest of his coaching career—and admits it will take stellar recruiting, loyal fans, and a lot of hard work.

“I know that I’ve got to do my job in putting a product out there that will make people want to come and support us,” says Haith, adding that the Hurricanes will play an aggressive offense and defense. “But we’ve also got to do our job in terms of reaching out to the community and reaching out to the student body.”

Such support is crucial, Haith says, because the ACC is known as much for its loyal fans as its high caliber of basketball. “When you go on the road in the ACC, you are truly on the road,” Haith says. “There’s definitely a home court advantage in this league, and that’s something we have to create at the Convocation Center.” Haith has already taken steps to build that support, launching a series of basketball booster functions this season to which University of Miami students, alumni, and former players are invited.

“Being a head coach in the ACC probably ranks right up there with my tougher challenges, if not the toughest, because you’re going up against coaches who are of hall-of-fame caliber. This is indeed a lifelong dream, an opportunity I’m very excited about.”

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SPARE Yourself

ot flashes, night sweats, irritability, and bone density loss—for women over 40, menopause is a hot topic. Research indicating risks of hormone replacement ther-apy has led many menopausal women to seek alternatives, and many believe soy to be the next panacea.

“Almost half of all menopausal women in the United States at one point have tried using plant-derived estrogens, such as those found in soy products, but there have been no definitive long-term studies showing that these products work,” says Silvina Levis, M.D., director of the Osteoporosis Center at the School of Medicine.

Levis is principal investigator of the SPARE Study, the longest, most extensive study of its kind on plant estrogens. SPARE, which stands for soy phytoestrogens as replacement estrogen, is a double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation of more than 300 women between the ages of 45 and 58 who are in their first five years of menopause. For two years participants will receive either tablets containing natural estrogens derived from soybeans or a pla-cebo pill. All women will receive a physical exam, yearly mammogram and bone density test, and monitoring of hormone, thyroid, and cholesterol levels. The Osteoporosis Center is recruiting participants for the study, which is sponsored by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and the Office of Women’s Health of the National Institutes of Health.

For information, visit http://www.med.miami.edu/med/gerontology/spare_study.asp.

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MIAMI PROJECT RESEARCHERS TAKE A GIANT LEAP TOWARD CURING PARALYSI
Striking a Nerve

lamming your finger in a car door may cause nerve damage, not to mention a soliloquy of expletives from you. But with a little time, you’re likely to regain full feeling and function in that finger. That’s because peripheral nerves—those in your fingers, toes, and anywhere outside of your brain and spinal cord—are able to regenerate.

Paralysis, affecting more than 200,000 Americans a year, is caused by damage to the spinal cord, where nerves do not regenerate. In a landmark study at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, scientists have used an innovative combination treatment to regrow nerve fibers in spinal cord-injured rats and restore up to 70 percent of their normal walking function. Researchers Mary Bartlett Bunge, Damien Pearse, and colleagues published the study in the June 2004 issue of Nature Medicine.

“To our knowledge, this is some of the best improvement we’ve seen,” says W. Dalton Dietrich, scientific director of The Miami Project.

For more than 15 years at The Miami Project, Bunge, the Christine E. Lynn Distinguished Professor in Neuroscience, has been working with Schwann cells, which help peripheral nerves to grow. When transplanted into the central nervous system, Schwann cells build bridges that enable nerve fibers to grow across the area of injury. But in previous studies the fibers would always stop at the end of the bridge. Adding two agents—cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cyclic AMP) and Rolipram—enabled the fibers to con-tinue into and beyond the site of injury in the spinal cord. Cyclic AMP is a messenger molecule that encourages the nerve fiber growth, but it decreases significantly after spinal cord injury. Rolipram, an antidepressant that has been used to treat multiple sclerosis, prevents the breakdown of cyclic AMP. One week after bruising the spinal cord, the researchers injected two million Schwann cells into the injury site, then injected cyclic AMP above and below the injury site. Animals received Rolipram by subcutaneous infusion for two weeks, starting at the time of injury.

Twelve weeks after treatment, animals went “from taking an occasional step with the hind limbs to consistently stepping, developing coordination so the hind limbs knew what the forelimbs were doing, and being able to step on bars in a grid walk without the hind paws falling in between the bars,” Bunge explains. Treated rats also showed 500 percent more nerve fibers in the injury area than control rats, though it is unclear which were regenerated versus protected by the treatment.

“It has been only since 1980 that scientists thought it was worth working on spinal cord injury. We have quite a bit of work to do before we can enter clinical trials,” says Bunge, noting that further studies are needed to determine dosing regimen and safety, as well as to explore combinations with other experimental treatments such as steroids.

Another unanswered question is whether the three-pronged combination treatment would be effective for severed spinal cords; Bunge’s and Pearse’s study focused on contusion injuries.

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HOMES ARE A HALLMARK OF MIAMI’S POSTWAR YEARS
Living History

he furniture, the collectibles gathering dust in the garage, the colors of the walls and whether or not they have peanut butter stuck to them—homes reveal a lot about their owners. Homes also reveal a lot about the cities and eras in which they were built. The Florida Home: Modern Living, 1945-1965, shown at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida through January 2005 and in Tallahassee starting in May 2005, re-creates the residential atmosphere and architecture of postwar Miami.

“This exhibition is more about the transformation of a way of life in the city, not so much a transformation of the city itself,” explains Jean-François LeJeune, associate professor in the School of Architecture and guest curator of the exhibit with his former student, Allan Schulman, M.Arch. ’92, who is a Miami architect and research assistant professor in the school. “It was a time when you had GIs returning from the war and settling in South Florida; many attended the University of Miami.”

Featuring original architectural drawings, books, magazine articles, and films from the postwar era, as well as mahogany scale models built by School of Architecture students, the exhibition paints a portrait of Miami modernism.

“Everything changed after the war, even more so in Miami,” says LeJeune, explaining the dramatic shift from ornate, two-story styles to simplified designs that emphasize nature. “This was a more inventive period of architecture. Miami architects were influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Rudolph, and the experimental ‘case study houses’ being built in California. But they never copied; they reinterpreted these influences to the local context.”

With his philosophy of Organic Architecture, Wright set the foundation for architects like Rufus Nims, Igor Polevitzky, and Alfred Browning to punctuate the South Florida landscape with homes that were very open, incorporated natural materials like wood and glass, and were ideal for the subtropical climate. Many employed natural ventilation, which was critical since air-conditioning was not yet prevalent and more people began living here year-round. This period also marks the birth of the now-omnipresent Florida room. The hallmark of the exhibit is a life-sized reincarnation of one of Polevitzky’s 1947 designs, the Heller House, which is outfitted with furnishings and appliances from its day.

The Florida Home is the second exhibition for the LeJeune-Shulman team. Their first, The Making of Miami Beach 1933-1942, debuted at the Bass Museum of Art on Miami Beach in December of 2002. In 2005 the Bass will host the team’s third exhibition, tentatively titled From Miami to Metro: Architecture and Urbanism at Mid-Century.

LeJeune and Shulman joined Steve Stuempfle, chief curator of The Historical Museum, in creating the exhibition “to preserve what’s worth preserving,” LeJeune says. “The real estate field is not well informed. Some people think these homes have little value, but they were saying the same about art deco 20 years ago. Now deco is protected, but it used to be an uphill battle, as many were destroyed.”

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TISSUE-TEK YIELDS PATHOLOGY RESULTS IN RECORD TIME
Waves of the Future

ince the 1970s, micro-waves have revolutionized the way we pop our popcorn and heat our leftover pizza. Now pathologists at the School of Medicine are using microwaves to give patients their biopsy results in little more than an hour.

Azorides Morales, M.D., chairman of the Department of Pathology at the School of Medicine, and colleagues have invented rapid tissue processing, a system that uses specially designed microwaves to uniformly heat and prepare biopsy tissue for analysis. Traditional tissue processing requires a 14-step process that takes a minimum of 12 hours to complete and employs a large volume of toxic reagents, such as formalin, a known environmental toxin used in pathology since 1893. “Formalin also destroys RNA, precluding the use of tests required to meet the ever-increasing demands of nuclear medicine,” Morales says. Rapid tissue processing takes 67 minutes and uses fewer and far less-toxic reagents.

“Imagine coming to the hospital and knowing your diagnosis and having a treatment plan before you go home,” says Gary Margules, assistant provost and director of the Office of Technology Transfer.

Following seven years of development at the University of Miami and its Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, the system, called Tissue-Tek Xpress, is for sale to hospitals and labs around the country. Morales holds numerous patents on the process, alone and jointly with father-and-son Venezuelan colleagues Ervin Essenfeld, M.D., and Harold Essenfeld, M.D. Sakura Finetek USA, Inc., is the licensed manufacturer of Tissue-Tek Xpress, which Margules projects will boost the University into the top 14 percent of universities involved in technology transfer.

“This is a remarkable accomplishment,” says Margules, “but the difference it will make in patients’ lives is the greatest reward.”

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Honoring a Visionary

he White House recently honored 57 rising research stars with the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The only Floridian standing among the recipients was Valery I. Shestopalov, assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

“This is a unique gathering of young people who started their research at the cutting-edge of science,” Shestopalov says. “It was exciting to realize that I am part of this group.”

The PECASE program, established in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, is the highest honor bestowed annually by the U.S. government on scientists and engineers who are in the early stages of establishing their careers. Nominated by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, Shestopalov has discovered key details about the structure of the crystalline lens of the eye. Collaborating with Steven Bassnett at Washington University in St. Louis, Shestopalov learned that lens cells fuse together in a scaffold called a syncytium, which delivers a supply line of nutrients from surrounding eye fluids. Vision through the clear ocular lens is possible only because its cells lack the opaque organelles that provide nourishment in other types of cells. Recent experiments in Shestopalov’s laboratory at the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Vision Research Center have suggested that disruption of the lens syncytium plays a role in cataract formation, a major cause of blindness.

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MODEL UN TEAM WINS AT NATIONAL CONFERENCE
Practicing Politics

arlos Llinas, junior political science major and president of the University’s Model United Nations (MUN) club, remembers the thrill of being in the same room as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a model UN conference at The Hague. He was attending high school at The American School of Madrid at the time. “It was like seeing Bon Jovi,” Llinas describes. “People were throwing themselves to grab his hand. Security was going crazy.”

This memory ranks second only to the thrill that Llinas and 13 of his MUN teammates experienced this April at the Great Hall of the United Nations in New York City, where they surpassed more than 200 international universities for one of six top Outstanding Delegation awards. Not bad for the University’s third visit to the National Model United Nations conference, a competition that dates back to 1946, a year after the creation of the United Nations.

“We screamed so loud and started doing the ’Canes cheer while we were still in session,” Llinas says. “You feel proud. You are in a chamber where you are showing the University of Miami to the rest of the world.”

The University’s 14 delegates represented the island state of Cyprus, a strategic choice for the team because as a divided nation applying for European Union status, it had been “a major UN topic,” Llinas says. He explains that winning the competition requires becoming a leading voice in the general assembly and applying diplomacy behind the scenes to get resolutions passed. “You have to know your country and how to play the game. The real politics goes on in places we don’t see on TV—in the hallways of the hotel or out to dinner with delegates. You’d talk about forming a coalition between your countries, then the conversation would switch to MTV.”

To prepare, the team spent about 15 hours a week for more than six months researching policies and issues of Cyprus, learning parliamentary procedure, improving their public speaking skills, and practicing how to write resolutions and position papers. They received guidance from faculty advisor Pete Moore, assistant professor of political science in the School of Business Administration and an expert in Middle East politics, as well as guest speakers from political and academic organizations.

The University began sending a team of students to the national conference in 2002, but this was the first team derived from a student-driven MUN club at the University. Last November the club held the first campus-wide UN simulation, ’Canes Conference, which this year is open to students at ten Florida colleges and universities.

As president, Llinas is working to increase participation in MUN. “It’s for those who really want to know what’s going on in the world and who think their opinion means something.”

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UGARRIZA COMPLETES FULBRIGHT MISSION IN CYPRUS
Nursing Fragile Ties

n an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, two regimes are caught in a 30-year struggle over sovereignty. Tensions begin to ease, and the Green Line that has divided Cyprus for so long softens just enough for the Greek and Turkish sides to begin peaceful contact. Meeting in a buffer zone at the office of the Fulbright Commission, one of the first groups to make such strides was the nursing community.

“The Fulbright Association is particularly astute and very sensitive to the role that nursing can play,” says Doris Ugarriza, M.S.N. ’81, associate professor in the School of Nursing and Fulbright scholar in Cyprus from August 2003 to January 2004. “Nursing can transcend sociopolitical boundaries in a way that other disciplines can’t.”

A clinical specialist in adult psychiatric nursing, Ugarriza also has expertise in multicultural nursing. She answered a call from the Fulbright Commission for a senior scholar to teach nurses in Cyprus about the cultural differences of people that could impact delivery of health care.

“People have beliefs on what causes illness, and the biomedical model has a belief about what causes illness, and these beliefs change all the time,” Ugarriza explains.

Ugarriza spoke to hundreds of nurses on both sides of the Green Line, aided by an interpreter on the Turkish side, about how to acknowledge their own beliefs and the beliefs of their patients, then to “broker” them with the biomedical and nursing models of care. Along the way she helped unite two nursing Ph.D. candidates: a Greek Cypriot commuting to Athens for her studies and a Turkish Cypriot commuting to Ankara for hers.

“I would like to say that I made a difference when I was there, but they really made a difference for me too. Fulbright is one of these critical organizations that really work to get us closer to world peace.”

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Go Figure

A strictly by-the-numbers perspective of UM

Average faculty-to-student ratio at the
University of Miami

13 to 1

Average faculty-to-student ratio at
American colleges and universities

15 to 1

Average insect-to-human ratio on Earth
1.6 billion to 1

Annual amount spent on pesticides worldwide
$33.5 billion

 

Questions answered without human intervention
on the Web-based AskUM in its launch year
15,272

Most common AskUM question
Is there a list of jobs available
at the University?
University’s estimated annual
savings in personnel resources through AskUM

$380,000

Price of a new 550-horsepower Maybach 62
$380,000

 

 

 

 

Proportion of college freshmen who discuss
politics on a frequent basis
22.5 Percent

Number of registered members
of student political organizations
at the University of Miami

360

Length of cable the University installed for the September 30 presidential debate
66 miles

Length of concrete portion of the former Berlin Wall
66 miles

Sources: University of Miami Web Development and Support,
Walt Disney World Resort, Nathan’s Famous, Inc., Encyclopaedia Britannica, Today in Science History, University of Miami Convocation Center, Fox News Network, University of Miami Department of Religious Studies, and “Religious Involvement and Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review” by Professor Michael McCullough, et al., in Health Psychology.

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