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RBHS Academic and Research Buzz – November 2020

Dear Colleagues,  

Welcome to the second 2020issue of the RBHS academic and research newsletter, which provides general information, news from faculty and student affairs, and research updates. If you have information for inclusion in future editions or any suggestions, please send to: svcaar@rbhs.rutgers.edu.  

The news regarding vaccines on the horizon is encouraging, but the increasing toll of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and mortality is very concerning especially during the holiday season. Hopefully, the horizon is bright as we work together to overcome this second wave.  

Stay safe and… Wear a face-covering 😷 Watch your distance 🛑 Wash your hands 🤲  

Best wishes for a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving and Holiday Season,  

Bishr Omary   
Senior Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs and Research  

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RBHS Academic and Research Buzz – November 2020  

Fall 2020 is unlike any other due to the continued disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but RBHS has remained devoted to countering the toll of the pandemic and to its educational, research, and clinical missions.  

The RBHS Strategic Planning process is well underway and the Strategic Planning website continues to be populated with updates and seeks comments from the RBHS community.  The Strategic Planning Steering Committee (SPSC), co-chaired by Drs. Gwen Mahon (School of Health Professions) and Sylvia Christakos (New Jersey Medical School) has been working very hard to gather input from the RBHS community and across Rutgers University. Two well-attended town hall events have been held to provide updates, answer questions, and further engage RBHS community members. Additionally, the SPSC was joined by President Jonathan Holloway for a discussion on November 9 when he described his guiding values focusing on creating a culture of a beloved community, academic excellence, and strategic clarity. A third Town Hall is scheduled for Tuesday, December 1 from 6:00-7:30pm as a Zoom webinar that can be accessed using the Webinar ID: 995 9898 7020 and Passcode: 056699. You can submit your questions in advance, and you will also be able to ask questions during the webinar.

In order to have a central hub for RBHS events, we have created a new RBHS Events Calendar where upcoming Academic Affairs and Research events are posted; Schools/Units also have the ability to submit events to the calendar.  

By way of seeking your input, a new feedback form is available to provide faculty /staff /trainees an opportunity to anonymously share any feedback, suggestions, or concerns.  

CONGRATULATIONS to all the recipients of the inaugural year for the annual RBHS Chancellor Awards that acknowledge the extraordinary work of faculty and staff in eight categories. We are very pleased to share with you this video presentationhonoring these awardees. We applaud the honorees and, indeed, all those whose names were put forth, as exemplary representatives of our remarkable community of faculty and staff. A call for nominees for next year’s awards will be announced in Spring 2021. 

CONGRATULATIONS to Dr. Shobha Swaminathan, Associate Professor at New Jersey Medical School (NJMS), and her research team for completing their enrollment for the Moderna vaccine trial, which was co-sponsored by NIH. NJMS was one of 90 sites across the U.S. to recruit adults to volunteer for the phase 3 Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial (known as the COVE Study; two injection vaccine protocol) that tested the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine based on messenger RNA (mRNA) in 30,000 participants nationwide. Recent reports upon completion of the phase 3 trial suggest that the vaccine provides nearly 95% protection. Shobha will also be the Rutgers PI of the Sanofi vaccine trial that is projected to start in early December.  

CONGRATULATIONS to Dr. Jeff Carson, Distinguished Professor of Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) and RBHS Provost-New Brunswick campus, for being selected as the PI for the Rutgers University clinical trial site for the phase 3 Janssen COVID-19 vaccine trial (ENSEMBLE trial; one injection vaccine protocol) to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the vaccine based on viral vector (Adenovirus 26) developed by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson and Johnson, Inc. To date, Rutgers is 10th in enrollment from 170 worldwide sites that are actively enrolling (likely through mid-late December). The goal is to enroll up to 60,000 volunteers. The Rutgers trial recruitment efforts are facilitated by the New Jersey Alliance for Clinical and Translational Science (NJ ACTS) led by Dr. Rey Panettieri, RBHS Vice Chancellor for Translational Medicine and Science. 

CONGRATULATIONS to Dr. Shawna Hudson, member of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research, and Professor and Research Division Chief, Family Medicine and Community Health at RWJMS, who was awarded a $6 million supplement to the NJACTS Clinical and Translational Sciences Award for NJ HEROES TOO, an NIH RAD-X UP project focusing on populations disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The award will extend employment-based COVID-19 testing to households and extended families/networks of lower-income health care workers and support staff and, ultimately, increase community-based testing in vulnerable, underserved populations among low-income, Black and Latino/Latina minority communities in New Jersey counties.  

CONGRATULATIONS to School of Public Health Dean, Dr. Perry Halkitis who spearheaded the NJ Community Contact Tracing Corps Program, a $13.1 million award from the New Jersey Department of Health to train NJ community contact tracers. The Rutgers School of Public Health’s Center for Public Health Workforce Development will be leading the first group of community contact tracers developing and providing culturally-competent training.  

CONGRATULATIONS to Dr. Sarah Patel, Lecturer in the School of Health Professions’ Physician’s Assistant (PA) Program, who was awarded the honor of being recognized among America’s Top PA for 2020 by the Point of Care Network (POCN), the largest network of NPs and PAs in the country. She is one of only 10 PAs awarded nationally for this honor that recognizes excellence in care quality and delivery, professional and practice development, and community outreach and involvement.

If you would like to see a feel-good television spot that aired recently and highlights the excellence of our Cancer Institute of NJ, check out: https://youtu.be/oI2HQ1Q4osA 

ADDITIONAL HIGHLIGHTS OF SOME ACADEMIC AFFAIRS ACTIVITIES 

The Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. Sangeeta Lamba, published a report on Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives and Measuring Progress. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion continues working on several programs and initiatives. This includes hosting monthly Virtual Cafés for faculty and staff affinity groups to build community and discuss topics of interest.   

The newly formed RBHS Anti-Racism Task Force, chaired by Dr. Charlotte Thomas-Hawkins of the School of Nursing, held its inaugural meeting. Several of the workgroups formed by the Task Force have begun meeting and developing initiatives for Spring 2021.   

Several training programs were held during the fall including Racial Literacy Tools for Health Care Providers, presented by Dr. Brenda Pereda, Associate Dean for Equity and Belonging, University of New Mexico School of Medicine. Dr. Leona Hess, Director of Strategy and Equity Education Programs, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, conducted two train-the-trainer sessions on “Building an Anti-Racist Learning Environment” and “Chats for Change: Levels of Racism.”   

In addition, the RBHS has launched a pilot program for faculty, Advancement through Engagement and Mentoring (AEM). This pilot program cohort consists of eleven RBHS faculty and a collaborative partnership with the Rutgers Connection Network Mentoring Program and the Rutgers Center for Organizational Leadership. Keep an eye on the events calendar for future programming!  

The Vice Chancellor for Faculty Development, Dr. Maral Mouradian, continues to offer trainings and programs for RBHS Faculty. This fall, over forty faculty received training on How to Be an Effective Mentee. The next How to Be an Effective Mentee training is scheduled for December 4th at 12pm  

Dr. Anita Siu and Dr. Andrew Gow of the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy presented during a training session for over sixty-five faculty entitled “Developing the Mentor.” Their next mentor training program, “Inclusive Mentoring: Challenging Assumptions in the Mentoring Relationship” will be held on December 3rd at 12pm.   

Dr. Sandra Masur, Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, delivered a presentation entitled, “How to Negotiate for What You Need” to seventy faculty attendees during the Women’s Leadership Series. 

Several programs will be offered during the coming months. Remember to check the events calendar regularly for more information.   

The RBHS Office for Violence Prevention & Victim Assistance (VPVA) recognized Domestic Violence Awareness Month throughout October with programs such as Survivor Love Letter, which is focused on honoring survivors, speaking up against violence and harassing behaviors, and promoting healthy relationships. VPVA also launched a Support Text Line, allowing RBHS students to connect with VPVA to ask questions, get information, schedule a counseling session, or receive support related to interpersonal violence. VPVA can assist with just a text to 973-972-4636. It’s free, confidential, and can be anonymous.  

About 50 percent of women with disabilities will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and about 25 percent of LGBTQ+ people who have experienced intimate partner violence are disabled. Join the Office of Disability Services (ODS) and Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA) on December 2nd at 12pm to learn more about how domestic violence affects the disability community. This session will discuss resources and providing direct support to those who experience domestic violence. This session is intended for both people with disabilities and professionals working with the disabled populations. This is a virtual session; feel free to bring your lunch and you can register here

ADDITIONAL HIGHLIGHTS OF RESEARCH ACTIVITIES 

The Rutgers University Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness (CCRP2), established in March 2020, continues to grow and serve as the university-wide institutional hub for COVID-19 research activities and information dissemination.  It is led by Dr. David Alland (NJMS) as director and Dr. Henry Raymond (SPH) as associate director, with Drs. Amariliz Rivera-Medina and Jason Yang (RBHS Chancellor Scholars at NJMS) who oversee several of the Center activities. As of October 30, Rutgers investigators have submitted 408 COVID-related research proposals, representing over $332M in potential funding and, to-date, this has resulted in 106 sponsored awards totaling almost $120M. Additionally, there were 154 COVID-related journal articles from Rutgers authors since the beginning of the year.  Many more proposals and grants, both COVID and non-COVID related, are in the works and forthcoming thanks to all of your hard work and resilience! 

RBHS awarded over $600,000 in COVID-response pilot project funding in four different research and education areas: basic and translational research; social sciences research; education and teaching innovation; and research on advancing health equity and social justice. 

Two Healthcare Worker Cohorts were established including over 6,000 participants to investigate COVID-19 susceptibility in first responders. These cohorts provided samples for RUCDR Infinite Biologics (now Infinity BiologiX led by Rutgers faculty member, CEO David Brooks) to obtain an Emergency Use Authorization approval for first approved SARS-Cov-2 saliva test in U.S. These cohorts have been nationally recognized by NIH, which has provided over $11 million in supplemental awards. 

Growing concerns regarding “undue foreign influence” in higher education has led several federal agencies to issue statements emphasizing the need for increased transparency around activities that have the potential to unduly influence our activities, including research practices and outcomes. New guidance on International Collaboration in Research and Other Activities is available from the Rutgers University Office of Ethics and Compliance. 

IN THE WORKS: (i) A research support Bridging Program to provide support to investigators who are between grants; (ii) A research tools Workshop Series to provide information about available Rutgers-wide and RBHS research core support and state-of-the-art technologies including genomics, experimental genetic models, proteomics, computational support, and other resources. We anticipate that both programs will be rolled out during the first quarter of calendar year 2021. 

UPCOMING RUTGERS INNOVATION SEMINAR: Rutgers Office for Research – Innovation Ventures is hosting a presentation on “The Future of American Innovation & the Role of the University” by the director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Andrei Iancu J.D., followed by a panel discussion on inclusive innovation and a Q&A Session. Dr. S. David Kimball, Senior Vice President for Research, will be providing opening remarks and Dr. Tatiana Litvin-Vechnyak, Associate Vice President for Innovation Ventures, will be the moderator for this event. You can register to attend this event and submit questions in advance

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: NSF/NIH Smart Health and Biomedical Research in the Era of Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Data Science NSF 21-530.  The purpose of this interagency program solicitation is to support the development of transformative high-risk, high-reward advances in computer and information science, engineering, mathematics, statistics, behavioral and/or cognitive research to address pressing questions in the biomedical and public health communities. Transformations hinge on scientific and engineering innovations by interdisciplinary teams that develop novel methods to intuitively and intelligently collect, sense, connect, analyze, and interpret data from individuals, devices, and systems to enable discovery and optimize health. Solutions to these complex biomedical or public health problems demand the formation of interdisciplinary teams that are ready to address these issues, while advancing fundamental science and engineering. Projects will be funded for up to four years for a total of $1,200,000 ($300,000 per year). Deadline(s): February 16, 2021; November 10, 2021; November 10, 2022. 

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO: James Tuchi, CEO and founder of Millennium Healthcare Solutions, an early innovator in the burgeoning field of online medical care, recently committed $8 million in support of major initiatives at RBHS and the Rutgers School of Communication and Information. The gift includes $3 million to drive advances in the management of mass exposure to anthrax; develop a portable device that detects lead in water and blood; improve bleeding control after traumatic injuries; and train leaders in effective risk and crisis communication. These efforts are led by Clifton R. Lacy, the former New Jersey health commissioner and former chief of cardiology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Another $3 million will launch a clinical trial incubator, headed by Jeffrey Carson, that will guide and train faculty seeking to redirect their careers into medical research.  This initiative will build the capacity of faculty to initiate high-impact research and bring important research projects to the university. Additionally, $2 million will support Project ECHO, a guided-practice, tele-mentoring model, comprising telehealth clinics in which practitioners across a variety of disciplines exchange information and insight.