Upstate DPT students speak at national conference

SUNY Upstate DPT

Upstate DPT students Cara Corasaniti, Kelly Brunscheen, associate professor Carol Recker-Hughes, PhD, and DPT student Lauren Shirley at the APTA meeting in Indianapolis.

Three Upstate Doctor of Physical Therapy students took to the national stage to talk up the after-school fitness mentoring program they developed in Syracuse schools.

Kelly Brunscheen, Cara Corasaniti and Lauren Shirley were among the presenters at the American Physical Therapy Association’s 2015 Combined Sections Meeting in Indianapolis.

The DPT students created CHAMP, a program that encourages children of varying ages and abilities to get exercise and learn healthy living habits. Kelly, Cara, Lauren and other DPT students met weekly after school with children at the Northside CYO; they also conducted the program at the Southwest Community Center.

“Creating and implementing CHAMP was a rewarding, and at times challenging, experience,” Kelly said. “Our team designed stations based on New York State standards of fitness while also encouraging a fun atmosphere. With the wide range of ages it was definitely a challenge at times to meet each activity level of the kids!”

Kelly commended Lauren for initiating CHAMP (Children’s After-School Mentoring Program) and for submitting an application to the APTA conference. Kelly said CHAMP also benefited from Cara’s insights and skills, and the guidance of their advisor, associate professor Carol Recker-Hughes, PhD.

SUNY Upstate DPT

Upstate DPT students Kelly Brunscheen, Cara Corasaniti and Lauren Shirley enjoy the exhibitors' expo during the APTA gathering in Indianapolis.

“The program facilitated my growth not only as a future health care professional, but on a personal level,” Cara said. “It allowed for opportunities to build relationships and to share varying knowledge, culture and experience between the children and the volunteers.”

Lauren said being able to speak at the APTA gathering was an honor.

“The conference gave us the opportunity to share CHAMP with other professionals and students in hopes they too would want to start a program like CHAMP at their university or in their community,” she said. “We had a blast and got a lot of nice feedback. CHAMP is taking off, and it’s great that it’s getting such positive support.”

Lauren is about to begin her third and final year in the DPT program; Cara and Kelly graduate in May. CHAMP may resume in the fall semester.

“I felt that we were able to take areas of what we have learned in our DPT classes at Upstate to the kids at CHAMP,” Kelly said. “This experience has helped me to see that we have been given the foundation and tools to make a difference in whatever community our DPT careers take us.”

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Second annual Upstate student art show a success

SUNY Upstate Art Club

Upstate medical student Noella Richman, a participating artist in the second annual Student Art Show, looks at artwork with David Snyder of Syracuse. The show continues through April in Weiskotten Hall's Health Sciences Library.

The SUNY Upstate Student Art Club’s second annual show is winding down, and the artists celebrated with a reception Wednesday in the Health Sciences Library.

Club president Karen Howard, an MD/PhD student, said 18 artists showed 80 pieces, almost twice as many as last year. The show runs through April in the library.

“The gala was a huge success!” Karen said. “Upstate students, faculty and employees have been tremendously helpful and supportive of the club.”

Works included ceramics, acrylics, watercolors, oil paints, pastels, photography, mixed media, LEDs and graphite. The club is already making plans for a third annual show in April 2016.

“Quite a few visitors remarked to me that they were surprised at the artistic talent of Upstate students,” Karen said. “But I hope from now on, no one is surprised — only proud of what the students here have accomplished in addition to their studies.”

Some pieces are for sale. All the artwork is on display in the library, on the first floor of Weiskotten Hall. (Ask at the service desk about contacting artists for pricing information).

Here is a list of students who participated in the show:

Jane Akhuetie; Jeff Bilharz; Solomon Bisangwa; Nicole Cifra; Abigail Franco; Karen Howard; Sarah Idris;

Aleksandr Kruglov; Dawn Lammert; Bridget Lenkiewicz; Dipmoy Nath; Wale Odulate-Williams; Christina Persaud;

Mary Powers; Carey Quinn; Jennifer Rahman; Noella Richman, and Brittany Sprague.

Any student interested in joining the club should contact Karen at Or check it out on Facebook.

SUNY Upstate Art Show

Guests and artists at the reception for Upstate's second annual Student Art Show in the Health Sciences Library.


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‘Docs for Tots’ medical students plant Pinwheels for Prevention

SUNY Upstate

Upstate students in the "Docs for Tots" group planted pinwheels in the Weiskotten courtyard to raise awareness of child abuse prevention and to benefit the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center in Syracuse. (L-R): Danielle Davis, Victoria Fairchild, Gabriella Izzo, Katie McGregor and Emily Hensler.

The hundreds of blue and silver pinwheels gracing Upstate’s Weiskotten courtyard this week are courtesy of medical students in the “Docs for Tots” group.

The “Pinwheels for Prevention” are there to raise awareness of child abuse and to let people in Central New York know about the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center, said “Docs for Tots” president Victoria Fairchild, a first-year medical student.

“McMahon/Ryan is an important resource for the community,” Victoria said. “We’re trying to raise awareness for child abuse prevention, and to let people know this resource does exist.”

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This is the third year Upstate students have planted pinwheels in the courtyard, and the collection has grown to more than 600. Contributors donate $1 for a pinwheel, with proceeds going to McMahon/Ryan.

Students on the Syracuse campus sold 120 this year, while students at the Binghamton Clinical Campus sold 110. Pinwheels will remain in the Weiskotten courtyard until April 27.

That day, students in the “Docs for Tots” group will hear a presentation from graduating medical student Meghan Jacobs about her clinical experiences at McMahon/Ryan. Meghan will begin her pediatrics residency at Upstate this sumer.

“Docs for Tots” also will take any interested Upstate students on a tour of the agency April 29, said Victoria.

“It’s important to be aware, especially as doctors, that patients may present with abuse,” she said. “You have to keep it in your head at all times.”

The executive board of Docs for Tots:

Victoria Fairchild, president; Emily Hensler, vice-president; Brandon Rosenberg, treasurer; Aneesa Thannickal, secretary; Danielle Davis, shadowing coordinator; Katie McGregor and Gabriella Izzo, communications co-chairs; Mehek Mehta, events coordinator.

Ann Botash MD, professor of pediatrics and medical director at McMahon/Ryan, is the group’s advisor.

SUNY Upstate

Upstate medical student Victoria Fairchild plants Pinwheels for Prevention in the Weiskotten courtyard.

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Upstate student looks toward career in adolescent medicine

SUNY Upstate

Nicole Cifra, College of Medicine Class of 2016, was selected for a U.S. Public Health Service Excellence Award.

Upstate medical student Nicole Cifra’s passion for adolescent medicine has earned her a 2015 United States Public Health Service Excellence in Public Health Award.

Nicole is on track for a dual MD-MPH degree in 2016. She is one of only 57 medical students nationwide to earn the USPHS award that recognizes a commitment to public health leadership.

“Many of the challenges adolescents face are deeply rooted in public health, which I didn’t have an appreciation for prior to the public health curriculum,” Nicole said. “In particular, I narrowed in on the field of eating disorders.”

Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder are classified as mental illnesses by the American Psychiatric Association and can be fatal, Nicole said.

Misconceptions abound.

“A good number of sufferers are males, more than you’d think,” Nicole said. “It’s not just adolescent females. (It affects) people in mid-life, from all races, genders and socio-economic levels.”

Eating disorders represent a severe distortion of body image and an inability to make changes, Nicole said. “The mind plays tricks on you. It’s similar to alcoholism and its ‘repeated use, despite harm.’ It’s a scary illness.”

Nicole’s passion for public health has gotten her involved at the national and international levels, as well as in the local community.

Next week she’ll attend the Academy of Eating Disorders conference in Boston. She’s on an international task force with people from the Netherlands, Japan, Australia and other countries.

In Syracuse, Nicole serves on the board of Ophelia’s Place, a not-for-profit that provides support for individuals and families dealing with eating disorders. She periodically leads support groups there, and advocates for the organization in the community.

When Nicole was preparing for her boards at the end of her second year at Upstate, she spent a lot of time studying in Café at 407, a Liverpool coffee shop affiliated with Ophelia’s Place.

“It just had this affirming atmosphere, and I was there so much that the director at the time introduced herself and bought me lunch,” Nicole said. “During my MPH year I started volunteering there because I had more time and less stress. … It’s wonderful to get involved and use my skill set to help people.”

At Upstate, Nicole credits Karen Teelin, MD, director of adolescent medicine, and Associate Dean Jennifer Christner, MD, for mentoring and guiding her.

“When I found out Dr. Christner was an adolescent medicine doctor, she got stuck with me forever,” Nicole said. “I went to an adolescent medicine conference with her last year in Austin, and met people in the field.”

Nicole is finishing up her final third-year clerkship – pediatrics, “and I absolutely love it” – and looks forward to a rewarding final year at Upstate.

She plans on taking “away electives” in adolescent medicine in Rochester and Austin, as well as working on her capstone project for the MPH degree. After that, she’s hoping for a residency in pediatrics, followed by a three-year fellowship in adolescent medicine.

Nicole said she’s grateful that Dean of Student Affairs Julie White, PhD, nominated her for the U.S. Public Health Service excellence award.

“A lot of public health initiatives focus on nutrition, obesity prevention and exercise,” Nicole said. “Eating disorders get forgotten. Adolescence is important. A lot of habits are formed in that time.”

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Graduate student’s research featured in prestigious journal

SUNY Upstate

Upstate graduate student Neva Watson in the lab with the March 15 cover of The Journal of Immunology on her desktop. The journal features Neva’s research and her image of skeletal muscle calcification (red stain) caused by the virus TMEV.

Upstate graduate student Neva Watson’s research into a protein’s role in a virus that causes skeletal muscle inflammation has made the cover of the Journal of Immunology.

The March 15 issue of the journal features Neva’s research project as well as her image of skeletal muscle calcification caused by a virus. She is a student in the lab of Paul Massa, PhD, professor of Microbiology & Immunology, and professor of Neurology.

“Our lab had previously identified a protein (SHP-1) as a key negative regulator of virus-induced inflammatory responses in the central nervous system,” Neva said. “I’ve been trying to identify how SHP-1 is instrumental in mediating virus-induced inflammatory disease of skeletal muscle.”

Neva will defend her dissertation this month, and receive her PhD in May. She begins a post-doctoral position at Cornell University this summer.

Journal of Immunology

The March 15 cover of The Journal of Immunology features Neva Watson's image of skeletal muscle calcification (red stain) caused by the virus TMEV.

Neva’s research focuses on virus-induced myositis (inflammation and degeneration of muscle tissue), a disease that has emerged as a worldwide problem with few treatment options. The virus can spread to the central nervous system, causing dramatically increased sickness.

Neva’s research is in response to what her abstract says is an urgent need to explore genetic factors involved in this class of human disease.

“This could have a broad range of therapeutic implications down the line,” Neva said, citing chronic inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis as potential treatment targets.

“There are SHP-1 inhibitors available, but it’s hard to tease out their specific roles,” she said. “It’s a master regulator involved in many different signaling pathways associated with inflammatory responses.”

After Neva leaves Upstate, the Massa lab will continue pursuing this work, she said. Neva and a lab mate have another similar project headed for possible publication, which she hopes will help land continued funding.

At Cornell, Neva will study T cell-mediated neonatal immunity, evaluating how maternal nutrition affects offspring in an animal model. She’ll be in a laboratory at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, an environment in which Neva is very comfortable.

Neva started out with a plan to become a veterinarian, and worked as a veterinary assistant while a student at Western Washington University. “When I drove down there (Cornell) and saw the vet college, I said, ‘I’m home!’”

After high school in Connecticut, Neva went out west — first to Colorado — to pursue competitive freestyle skiing. Knee injuries and surgeries ended that plan.

She enrolled at Western Washington University and became enamored with biology. After earning her degree, she came back east for graduate school to be closer to her family. Neva said her experience at Upstate has been very positive.

“I appreciate the small environment where you interact with everyone and have the opportunity to forge relationships with all the PIs in the departments throughout the school,” she said. “You’re not lost, you’re not a small fish in a big pond. There’s always someone willing to help. You can just knock on their door and say, ‘I’m out of this reagent — can you help?’

“You can be successful coming from Upstate.”

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