News, happenings around Upstate Medical University

The Upstate team celebrated in London.

The Upstate team celebrated in London.

You may recall that four runners from Upstate were invited to compete in the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge in London this summer for the 3.5-mile championship race. They sent a group post card – a cut-out of Queen Elizabeth – saying “the race experience was one-of-a-kind and inspiring. We connected with athletes from across the country and the world.”

The team’s total time was 1 hour, 32 minutes and 39 seconds. John Kolh of environmental services finished in 21:24. Exercise physiologist Kristin Kmack finished in 22:26. Chris Loughlin, a member of the electronic medical records technical team, finished in 24:13. And registered nurse Cara Lavier finished in 24:36.


Happy holidays: Did you celebrate the start of summer at the LEON Festival in June? LEON (“noel” spelled backward) marks the halfway point to Christmas. There were fireworks instead of tree lights, Kidz Bop instead of carols, and no snow.

Staff from Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital distributed 500 free bicycle helmets along with advice for keeping kids safe. The celebration is expected to become an end-of-the-school-year tradition.


Construction is underway to expand the Joslin Diabetes Center so that more patients can be cared for at the center, at 3229 E. Genesee St.


The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reaccredited the Upstate Sleep Center, the only sleep study facility in Central New York to care for children. Its director, Robert Westlake says this “reaffirms our dedication to sleep health.”


Good news for the Master of Public Health program. It received a five-year accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health. This is a joint program between Upstate Medical and Syracuse universities, offering an MPH degree and a certificate program. Students include physicians and other health care professionals, plus people just entering the field of healthcare. Part-time study is an option. Learn more at


Upstate’s MD/PhD program adds eight new students this year, bringing to 27 the total number of future physician/scientists on what is typically a seven-year track that blends clinical practice with research. The dual degree program sandwiches a three-year PhD segment between the first two and last two years of medical school.


An initiative to decrease hospital re-admissions for heart failure patients, a program offering financial assistance for childbirth classes and an annual symposium that updates medical teams on advances in cancer care are among 61 projects at Upstate to share $120,000 in funding this year from The Advocates for Upstate Medical University.

The Advocates raise money through events such as Mystery, Malt and Merlot to support hospital programs that improve patient care, support medical education and enhance health.


Speaking of money that helps society, researchers in the Department of Psychiatry received a $2.8 million Mental Health Research Grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. Over the next five years, they will investigate genetic susceptibility to a wide range of childhood psychiatric disorders.


The Upstate Cancer Center received a $50,000 grant from the Susan G. Komen CNY Affiliate to help increase the rates of mammography screening in low-income African-American women. The grant helps create a program called “She Matters,” which will use trained resident health advocate to educate, encourage and facilitate mammography screening among women over the age of 40 who live in the Syracuse Housing Authority’s Pioneer Homes development near Upstate University Hospital in downtown Syracuse.


An associate professor of surgery and senior research scientist at Upstate was awarded a $50,000 grant from the SUNY Technology Accelerator Fund to develop a minimally-invasive infusion and suction therapy device to remove harmful abdominal fluid buildup caused by trauma, sepsis, or burns. The governor’s office identified Gary Nieman’s grant as one of five given to researchers at SUNY institutions to aid in the development of the next generation of life-saving technologies.


Also, Upstate is among nine State University of New York campuses to share $900,000 in funding for biomedical research projects supported by the SUNY Health Network of Excellence.

Gerontologist Sharon Brangman, MD, is involved in two of the projects – one that will investigate frailty through a collaboration with researchers at the University of Buffalo, Downstate Medical Center and Stony Brook University, and another that explores the creation of hand-held biosensors that could detect neural diseases such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injury.

John Epling, MD, and Christopher Morely, PhD, received a planning grant to create a SUNY-wide centralized “big data” repository of electronic health record data.


Posted in community, dementia, diabetes, education, fitness, psychiatry, research, stroke, surgery, trauma, women's health | Leave a comment

School’s in session and backpacks are full

Medical student Alex Rodriguez paints the face of a young student at the Back To School Barbeque.

Upstate medical student Alex Rodriguez paints the face of an elementary school student at the Back To School Barbecue.

Tuesday, September 2 marks the first day of school for thousands of Syracuse students who are backpack-ready, thanks to Upstate employee Mary Nelson, her Team Upstate colleagues and lots of community volunteers and donors. On August 16, volunteers handed out school supplies, backpacks, clothing and food at the Annual Youth Day Barbecue, held at South Salina St. and Wood Ave. in Syracuse. Nelson, an Upstate Radiology employee, started the barbecue 13 years ago to encourage young people to stay in school.

Upstate employees Joyce Freeman and Colleen McManus sort donated clothes to give away at the barbeque.

Upstate employees Joyce Freeman and Colleen McManus sort donated clothes to give away at the barbeque.

To add to the day’s festivities, Upstate medical students Nadya Dillion, Michael Enechukwu, Thomas Kartika and Alexander Rodriguez and pharmacology doctoral student Lesley Baker marched in the back-to-school parade and painted children’s faces with super-heros, cartoon characters, flowers and rainbows. They were joined by Upstate employees Aldrine  Ashong-Katai (diversity and inclusion), Danielle Fraser (information management and technology), Joyce Freeman (anesthesiology), Alexis Jones, (intensive care unit), Susan Keeter and Kristin Thompson (marketing and university communications), Colleen McManus (patient financial services), John Riggleman (emergency department), Terri Shuler (preadmission testing) and Renae Rockiki (president’s office).

“The Mary Nelson event is the essence of community, unity and empowerment of our youth,” said Ashong-Katai.

In preparation for the annual barbecue, Upstate Medical University held a month-long backpack and school supplies drive that generated hundreds of items which were donated to the event. The day-long event included live music by the Blacklites and lots of activities including free dental check-ups.

Darryl Patterson

Darryl Patterson

The Back To School Barbecue is held in loving memory of Nelson’s nephew, Darryl Patterson (b. 12/30/78-d. 6/4/02).

Click here to see Team Upstate — and lots of Syracuse school children — at the back to school barbecue. Video by Kristin Thompson.

Posted in community, education, entertainment, medical student, volunteers | Leave a comment

Low-wage jobs provide hardships, uncertainty

A study of low-wage workers in Syracuse reveals unstable and unpredictable work lives on many levels, says Jeanette Zoeckler, a public health project manager at Upstate’s CNY Occupational Health Clinical Centers.

“Imagine working two or three jobs just to put food on the table, having no transportation other than buses to get to those jobs and no security that their job or the wages agreed upon will be available tomorrow. Low-wage workers face these hardships and this uncertainty on a daily basis,” she says.

Zoeckler and colleagues queried 275 Syracuse adults working in jobs that did not allow them to make ends meet without the help of a government program to subsidize basic household needs. Survey questions dealt with working conditions, access to health care, wages and hours, and more. Participants were also asked what they would change in their workplace. Top answers were the need for respect and less discrimination in the workplace.

The data collected in the survey will be used for longer-term goals meant to improve conditions for workers with low-wage jobs. For a copy of the study contact the center at 315-432-8899, extension 103.

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Learning a new way of talking — without words

oneillBy Rich O’Neill, PhD

My mom is 97, has Alzheimer’s and has become less verbal and logical. She now lives in a residential health care facility, a nursing home. This has been a hard journey for her, and for me.

One of the most difficult things has been being with her when her words are nonsense. She starts a sentence with three or four words and then says unrelated words. What does she mean? What can I say back? For a long time I got frustrated, sad, even desperate.

But I’ve discovered that we can converse and both feel good if I just let go of her words, tune in to her emotional message, and respond from there.

I had to let go of my idea that as a grown woman she should talk sensibly and understand me, too.

Attuning emotionally now, I’m surprised that once in a while she listens to my emotion and responds to me there. For example, last week we were lunching. Now, she eats extremely slowly, almost one grain of rice at a time. I was getting antsy because of other obligations but hadn’t said anything. Somehow she knew and said “Do you have to go home to your family now?”


The other day I went over for lunch. She was at her table. I was expecting her usual greeting for me, which I call her “whole body smile.” This is when she lights up, looks right in my eyes, beams a smile, coos “Oh! Oh! You! You’re here! So good!” and stretches out her arms. And I smile back and hug and kiss her. “Hi Sweetie. Nice to see you.”

But this day she was slumped, eyes closed, not eating the lunch in front of her even though eating is one thing she still enjoys. I thought she might be sleeping. So I gently said “Hi sweetie,” and patted her shoulder. No response. I rubbed her back, gave her some kisses, made sure her hearing aid was on and said more soothing words. Her eyes remained shut, her body slumped.

I found her nurse’s aid, who told me she had to be a bit forceful cleaning her in the bathroom, and right after that experience Mom had gone into this whole body frown, possibly angry but who knows? I went back to her again, but she still did not respond, so I said goodbye and headed for the door. Before I could leave, the aide caught me: “She’s looking for you now.”

I returned to find those loving eyes and gentle smile. With soothing tones and kisses and love pats, we shared a very pleasant meal.

Who knows when we share our last one. I’m careful not to exhaust myself, to both care for myself and do the best I can caring for Mom, hoping our kids and theirs and theirs, will learn this talking without words.

croppedhloaPsychologist Rich O’Neill, PhD, shares “Check Up From the Neck Up” on Upstate’s weekly talk radio program, HealthLink on Air. Listen to the show from 9 to 10 p.m. Sunday on WRVO Public Media or anytime at


Posted in Alzheimer's disease, community, Health Link on Air | Leave a comment

Searching for ways to inhibit cancer

scienceisartA protein called Hsp90, short for “heat shock protein-90,” acts as a chaperone or guardian of cancer cells, helping them grow and survive.

This image shows the carefully folded parts of the protein, and the resulting pockets, which are occupied by energy chemicals called ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) at one ten-billionth of a meter atomic resolution.

Mehdi Mollapour, PhD

Mehdi Mollapour, PhD

Drugs compete with ATP to occupy these pockets, which cuts off the energy supply to the protein, consequently killing cancer cells. Assistant professor Mehdi Mollapour, PhD, and colleagues are exploring ways to selectively inhibit Hsp90 using natural products and hope to enhance the efficacy of Hsp90 inhibitors in cancer patients.

Mollapour splits his time between the departments of urology and biochemistry and molecular biology.

Posted in cancer, research, urology | Leave a comment

The question every doctor asks eventually

Dr. Lawrence Chin speaks during the 2013 White Coat Ceremony. Photo by William Mueller.

Dr. Lawrence Chin speaks during the 2013 White Coat Ceremony. Photo by William Mueller.

Upstate Neurosurgery Chairman Lawrence Chin, MD, spoke at Upstate’s annual White Coat Ceremony last fall, when medical students receive the jackets they will wear during their clinical rotations.

He told of a patient who had back pain that left him unable to walk because cancer had spread to his spinal cord. One surgeon said the patient was not fit for surgery, but Chin’s resident felt that the patient deserved a chance. The resident proposed an operation that would be complicated and time-consuming, to decompress the patient’s spinal cord and remove as much of the tumor as possible.

The date was July 4.

Chin and the resident both had plans to spend the day with family in town for the holiday. Maybe the surgery could wait until tomorrow?

“There comes a time when every doctor has to ask: Am I doing the best thing for this patient?” Chin told the medical students.

He and the resident faced that question that day – and the surgery took place that day.

Chin said it was the right decision. “Three weeks later, that man walked out of the hospital.”

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Recipe: Herb-Stuffed Tomatoes with White Beans

Photo by karstenjen

Photo by karstenjen

Looking for a healthy meal that makes use of the abundance of fresh tomatoes in Central New York? Here’s a tasty meatless solution.


2 ½ pounds fresh tomatoes (look for tomatoes at least 8 ounces)

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup yellow onion, diced

1 tablespoons garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

½ ounce green olives, pitted and chopped

2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

1 ½ tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped

1 ½ tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

1 ½ cup cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

¾ cup Panko bread crumbs


Cur the top ½-inch off the tomatoes and, using a melon baller or spoon, remove the inside of the tomato. Sprinkle insides with salt and leave upside down while preparing remaining ingredients.

Heat oil in a hot pan and sauté onions and garlic for 1 minute. Add the chopped olives and capers and toss.

Remove from heat and combine with remaining ingredients. Gently stuff each tomato with about ½ cup of filling. Then roast in a preheated 325-degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, until inside is heated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yields five servings.

Chef’s note: Filling can also be used to stuff portabella mushrooms, zucchini or eggplant.

Nutritional information, per serving:

186 calories

7 grams protein

25 grams carbohydrates

7 grams fat

0 milligrams cholesterol

509 milligrams sodium

6 grams fiber

–Recipe from Morrison Healthcare, the food service provider for Upstate Medical University.

Posted in nutrition, recipe | 1 Comment

Advice for beginning kayakers

Sarah Martin

Sarah Martin is one with her kayak.

When she’s not caring for patients in the spring, summer and fall, nurse Sarah Martin makes time for kayaking at least once a week.

“I love to be in nature. I love the peacefulness of it. When you are out on a body of water, your problems are so far away from you. For me, it’s spiritual,” Martin says. She works at Upstate University Hospital at the Community campus.

Martin is an experienced boater who discovered as she got older that she preferred boats without motors. She bought her lilac kayak a couple years ago and quickly became an enthusiastic disciple of kayaking.

She tells people who are interested in joining the activity:

1. Get the best kayak you can afford. You can get a molded plastic one for probably $600. I would suggest going to a kayak specialty store. This one was probably $1,800 used. It would have been $2,300 new.

2. The longer your kayak, the more stable it will be. Shorter kayakers are for the more advanced. Kayaks are pretty sturdy. I bought this particular kayak because I wanted to learn how to roll it. I have yet to master that. It’s very difficult to get it to roll. The biggest thing is getting in and out of it; you may end up in the water.

3. Paddles make a huge difference in fatigue level and overall maneuverability of the boat. Get the lightest one you can find.

4. I wear a dry suit, especially in the spring when the water is still cold. I bring my phone, something to drink and a rain jacket to keep in a little porthole right in front of me. Also, I keep flotation gear in the boat with me.


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Volunteer firefighters thrive on thank you’s

Upstate public safety officers and volunteer firefighters, Stephen Mauser, Jess Brown, William O'Connor and Dominick Albanese.

Upstate public safety officers who also serve as volunteer firefighters include Stephen Mauser, Jess Brown, William O’Connor and Dominick Albanese.

Several Upstate employees extend public service into their private lives, as volunteer firefighters. Meet seven public safety officers who do:

Dominick Albanese, 21

Moyers Corners Fire Department.

Experience: almost 2 years

Roles: interior firefighter. “My duty is to respond to the fire house and provide service to every call, no matter the nature, that we are dispatched for.”

Time investment: “I do about three calls a day, so it turns out I provide about 30 hours a week.”

Aspiration: “I want to become a police officer. Providing service to my community and being the ‘help’ that people call for is/was my dream.”

Reward: “I love helping people. Seeing the smiles on their faces after providing the service needed is great. Other than that, I love the adrenaline rush when entering a burning building.”


Troy Barrett, 21

Moyers Corners Fire Department

Experience: 5 years

Time investment: about 20 hours per week

Aspiration: Make a career of firefighting.

Reason: family tradition


Jess Brown, 49

Minoa Fire Department

Experience: 25 years

Roles: firefighter, first responder

Best part: “Being there to help.”


Evan Buschbascher, 28

Liverpool Fire Department

Experience: three years

Roles: interior firefighter, first aid

Reason: I am all about the community. I love helping out the people of the Town of Salina. It is something different every time the bell rings.

Time investment: 15 to 20 hours per week

Reward: Nothing is better than when you are at someone’s house to assist them, and they say ‘thank you for coming.’


Stephen L Mauser, 58

Moyers Corners Fire Department

Experience: 40 years

Roles: fire captain, dive team, under water recovery team, driver, fire police lieutenant, paramedic

Inspiration: “My father was a volunteer with MCFD in the 1960’s. At the age of 18, I witnessed MCFD operate during a serious fatal car accident. The way they all worked as a team and used all of their power tools was just amazing. I knew then I wanted to be a part of this fire department helping the public.”

Time investment: “It’s hard to say. We drill weekly, along with specialty drills or classes on any given day, plus we get called out any time 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Memory: “I delivered a baby solo one time, and it was one of the greatest days of my life to be a part of actually help bringing life into the world.”


William O’Connor, 22

Marcellus Fire Department

Experience: 8 years, including junior firefighting

Roles: firefighter, fire prevention education, emergency medical technician

How he began: “My family has a history of becoming both career and volunteer firefighters, so I guess you could say it is in my blood. My parents always taught me to help others when in need and give back as much as possible.”

Best part: “Not only do I have the opportunity to help my community, but my fellow firefighters are like a family. We are always there for each other, whether someone is moving or needs help fixing their house. Cooking dinner around the fire house and sitting at the table is just like sitting at home–except for maybe some jokes that mom probably would not be fond of.”


Richard Powell, 39

Camillus Fire Department

Experience: “I have been a volunteer here for about 1 ½ years, but I volunteered with a fire department in North Carolina outside of Charlotte for about 10 years.”

Position: scene support, emergency medical technician

Time investment: about 20 hours per week.

Why: “I got into the fire/emergency medical services back in 1994, but really got involved in 1999 after my mother passed away of a massive heart attack at the age of 50.”

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Cancer Center dominates coverage in Physicians Practice

PhysPract914The September issue of Physicians Practice magazine showcases the new Upstate Cancer Center. This is a publication that is distributed to doctors’ offices throughout Syracuse and the Central New York region.

Starting with the headline “Upstate strengthens cancer care options with new cancer center,” the article goes on to outline many of the services available in the building, which connects to Upstate University Hospital in downtown Syracuse.

Download the September issue of Physicians Practice




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