Friday, October 13, 2017

College of Medicine to Hold Research Forum Nov. 17

The 11th annual University of South Alabama College of Medicine Research Forum will be held Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, at the Medical Sciences Building on USA's main campus. The deadline for abstract submission is Friday, Oct. 20, 2017.

The Research Forum provides a venue for researchers from the College of Medicine and the Mitchell Cancer Institute to present their work to the university’s biomedical community.

“Since the Forum’s inception, we have seen many new ideas generated, as well as new collaborations develop among our community,” said Dr. Donna Cioffi, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the USA College of Medicine.

The forum consists of two sessions - the morning session for oral presentations in the first floor auditorium, and the afternoon session for poster presentations in the second floor south hallway. Lunch will be served in the Joseph Bitzer Conference Room.

“The poster session in particular is highly interactive and is an excellent opportunity to foster new collaborations,” Dr. Cioffi said.

Participation is required for all basic medical science graduate students in their second year and beyond.

In addition to graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, clinical fellows, residents and junior faculty are encouraged to participate.

“For undergraduate students thinking about graduate school, the forum is a great venue to learn about research and also to talk with current graduate students,” Dr. Cioffi said.

Travel awards will be given for the two overall best presentations: one for graduate students and one for postdoctoral fellows. These awards are to be used for travel to national or international meetings.

The event is co-sponsored by the USA College of Medicine and the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute.

For more information and to view abstract forms, click here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Dr. Xiangming Zha Awarded NIH Research Grant

Dr. Xiangming Zha, associate professor of physiology and cell biology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, recently was awarded a $1.8 million five-year grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study molecular mechanisms underlying acid signaling in the brain.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is an institute within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that aims to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system to reduce the burden of neurological disease. The Research Project Grant, or R01 grant, is the original and historically oldest grant mechanism used by NIH. The R01 provides support for health-related research and development based on the mission of NIH.

Dr. Zha said this is his first R01 grant, which scored in the second percentile. “The grant will allow us to investigate the signaling mediated by ovarian cancer G protein coupled receptor 1 (OGR1), and whether targeting it may have therapeutic potentials in stroke or in acidosis-incurring disease in general,” he said.

Brain pH is tightly regulated but can fluctuate under both physiological and pathological conditions. Various conditions including seizure, stroke, mitochondrial dysfunction and neurodegenerative diseases all lead to a decrease in extracellular pH, or acidosis. “Given the prevalence of acidosis in disease, determining molecular mechanisms underlying acid signaling may have broad translational value,” Dr. Zha said. “It has been known for decades that acidosis is one key contributing factor to neuronal injury. Paradoxically, a relatively mild acidosis can be protective.”

According to Dr. Zha, a lot of progress has been made on understanding how increased acidity in the brain leads to neuronal injury. This is in part due to the discovery of acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs), which are a group of channels that respond to a reduction in pH. “A series of data, including ours, shows that ASICs are the major postsynaptic proton receptor in brain neurons and are a key mediator of acidosis-induced neuronal injury.”

Dr. Zha said these findings on ASICs have greatly advanced the knowledge of acid signaling, but do not explain the protective effect of acidosis. “In our preliminary studies, we found that OGR1 is widely expressed in the brain,” he said. “In addition, OGR1 mediates acid-induced signaling in hippocampal slices. Our data further suggests that OGR1 mediates a protective pathway in neurons.”

According to Dr. Zha, Dr. James Downey, professor emeritus of physiology at the USA College of Medicine, is an expert in cardiac protection and has provided insightful suggestions on ischemia signaling. “Dr. Thomas Rich, associate professor of pharmacology at the USA College of Medicine, and Dr. Zhi-Gang Xiong, professor of neurobiology at the Morehouse School of Medicine, are co-investigators on the grant,” he said. “Dr. Rich will provide his expertise on imaging of intracellular signaling, while Dr. Xiong will provide knowledge on in-vivo rodent ischemia experiments.”

Dr. Zha said the results obtained from the study will likely uncover novel protective mechanisms in response to pH reduction, and provide potential molecular targets for the design of novel therapeutic approaches to alleviate ischemia-induced brain injury.

To learn more about Dr. Zha’s research, click here.

USA College of Medicine Office of Diversity and Inclusion Hosting Sixth Annual Diversity and Inclusion Lecture Series

The University of South Alabama College of Medicine Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) will host its sixth annual diversity and inclusion lecture series on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.

The lecture series will feature guest speaker Dr. Edward Callahan, associate vice chancellor for academic personnel for the Schools of Human Health and Sciences and professor of family and community medicine at the University of California Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento, Calif.

The first lecture will be a USA College of Medicine Internal Medicine Grand Rounds lecture on Oct. 19 from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. at the USA Medical Center Conference Center. This lecture is titled “Implicit Biases on Clinical Care and Health Disparities.”

Dr. Callahan’s second lecture will be held in the Medical Sciences Building auditorium from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Oct. 19. This lecture is titled “Diversifying Our Institutions to Reduce Health Disparities.”

A licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Callahan’s professional experience will bring an awareness of unconscious bias and how it influences decision making in clinical practice and in administrative decision making. Dr. Callahan will also address the relationship of social stigma to health disparities.

Dr. Callahan earned his Ph.D. from the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt. He serves on several steering committees and has received a number of honors including the Chancellor’s Achievement Award for Diversity and Community and the Excellence in Education Award from the University of California Davis School of Medicine.

A reception will follow the lecture series to recognize the new office location for the USA College of Medicine's Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The office was established in 2011 and has moved to its new location in the Medical Sciences Building, Suite 1164.

Please call (251) 460-7334 to RSVP or for more information.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Pediatrics Hosting Grand Rounds Oct. 20

Dr. Ivan J. Lopez, professor of neurology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, will present “Migraine Variant/Episodic Syndromes” for October’s pediatric grand rounds.

The event will take place Friday, Oct. 20, at 8 a.m. in the conference room on the first floor of the Strada Patient Care Center.

Dr. Lopez will discuss the different presentations of migraines in children and the diagnostic and management approach in children affected by migraines.

The event is open to faculty, staff and students at USA. A light breakfast, coffee and beverages will be provided. For additional information, contact Katie Catlin at

The Strada Patient Care Center is located at 1601 Center St. in Mobile.

‘One patient, one record’

This past weekend, USA Health transitioned to record-keeping unity within the system, reaching the goal of “one patient, one record.”

Termed the Unity project, the endeavor involved transitioning from five different electronic medical records systems and three different revenue cycle systems into one coordinated system that touches every part of USA Health.

“This transition gives our employees an integrated system that helps them do their job in an efficient manner so that ultimately they can focus on providing the best possible care to patients,” said Owen Bailey, chief executive officer at USA Health.

Unity, by design, makes care more convenient and safer for patients and at the same time empower providers. Representatives from every corner of USA Health have been working on the project since its inception, ensuring that each area would benefit from the change. Joining the USA Health staff was a team of expert consultants from around the country who combined familiarity with the new system and expertise in various phases of healthcare.

Cerner – the largest health care IT company in the world – built its system around best practices, incorporating methods that work well for health care systems around the nation. These methods were then tailored to USA Health’s needs. During the transition process, the team reviewed current procedures to see what was unique to USA and therefore needed to be localized, and also found places where USA Health would be better served by changing its procedures to conform to best practices.

Once the system was localized for USA, the next step was testing – looking at the adaptations Cerner made and making sure the actual system accomplished the goals envisioned during the development process.

The new Unity system affects everyone in USA Health. While Unity represents a step forward for everyone, for some it will be leaps and bounds. Emergency and surgery, for example, were still keeping records on paper.

Another feature of the new system is that it incorporates an additional level of safety each time medications are administered. The physician order will be matched with both the drug itself and the patient identification band. The system will question anything that doesn’t match or that doesn’t conform to best practices. The provider can override the computer, but they will have to stop and evaluate.

The key change for patients, however, are the simplified records. Before the switch, a patient who first visits a clinic and is then admitted to the hospital for tests has to fill out complete information at each place – allergies, medications, history and more. In the new system, the patient provides the information only once and simply verifies it at the next stop, saving time for both patient and caregiver. Moreover, once the information is in the system, it’s available quickly if the patient goes to the emergency room or visits a different clinic.

The convenience is a real benefit for a cancer patient, for example, who may see a primary care physician, have a hospital stay and receive treatment at USA Mitchell Cancer Institute, all in a relatively short span of time. The new system integrates care and billing.

In addition, patients can now access their health records online via a personalized patient portal, as well as make online payments.

Bailey said the continued commitment shown by USA Health staff was vital during the Unity implementation process. “These tools represent not only a change to our applications but also an improvement to our processes, efficiency, and the potential for what we can achieve together,” he said. “I'd like to thank our employees for their hard work and commitment to this important effort, and for all that they do for USA Health and for those they serve.”

View more photos from the Unity implementation here.