March 16, 2017

March 2017 Faculty News

Ping-Ching Hsu, Ph.D. and Gunnar Boysen, Ph.D. awarded grants for cancer research

Ping-Ching Hsu, Ph.D. and Gunnar Boysen, Ph.D.

Two COPH Professors Awarded Grants for Cancer Research

Jan. 30, 2017 | Two COPH faculty professors were recently awarded grants to assist UAMS scientists in advancing their cancer research projects.

Gunnar Boysen, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, and Ping-Ching Hsu, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology were presented their $10,000 grants on Jan. 26 at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute by the Envoys, a volunteer advocacy group of the Cancer Institute Foundation, during their “Doctor is In” reception and research poster showcase.

Boysen’s research titled, “Targeting Cancer Metabolism to Improve Lung Cancer Therapy,” seeks to understand how tumor metabolism contributes to tumor growth. His previous laboratory research has shown that the enzyme glutaminase is essential for production of the antioxidant glutathione (GSH) and growth of lung tumor cells. His grant funding will assist in further determining the importance of GSH in lung tumor cells.

Hsu’s research, “Metabolomic Profiling from the Arkansas Cardiovascular Health Examination Survey (ARCHES),” addresses Arkansas’ high death rate from smoking-related cancers by investigating the metabolic impact from cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products in human blood. Her study aims to provide feasibility data for a larger study representative of adult Arkansans and help inform clinical and community studies to reduce the risk of tobacco-caused diseases.

The grants are made possible by the Envoys’ annual RockStar Lounge fundraiser. This year’s event is set for April 7 at Cajun’s Wharf in Little Rock and will feature a performance by Resurrection — A Journey Tribute.

“Thanks to the support of the Envoys, our scientists can receive start-up funds to propel their research forward. The preliminary data these funds help establish will assist them in applying for larger grants in the future,” said Cancer Institute Director Peter Emanuel, M.D.

In addition to the grant presentation, the event included a research poster showcase in which UAMS cancer researchers displayed posters outlining their work and discussed their findings

Dr. Tiffany Haynes Featured Writer on National Blog

C O P H Assistant professor and Clinical psychologist Tiffany Haynes, P h D

Tiffany Haynes, Ph.D.

Check out Dr. Tiffany Haynes, assistant professor in the Health Behavior Health Education Department, on February’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) Insights Blog. Haynes was asked to blog as part of NIMHD’s online campaign to celebrate Black History Month. The blog discusses her NIMHD funded research project, “Faith Academic Initiatives to Transform Health (FAITH) in the Delta.” Haynes and Dr. Karen Yeary, associate professor in the Health Behavior Health Education Department, used the funding to partner with faith community leaders and UAMS researchers to conduct formative work in the Arkansas Delta. To read the blog, follow this link:

Professor Kevin Ryan Gives Grand Rounds at Arkansas Department of Health

Kevin Ryan, J.D., associate dean of professional programs, associate professor, and co-director of the DrPH program in the COPH gave Grand Rounds at the Arkansas Department of Health on Feb. 9.

His talk, “The Supreme Court and Public Health: 2017 and Beyond,” presented three current Supreme Court cases that have impact for public health practice. The first, Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley, in which the state of Missouri denied grant dollars to a church operated daycare center to replace the preschool’s playground pebbles with repurposed rubber from old tires. State officials said the preschool was ineligible because it was run by the church. Trinity sued arguing that denying its application is a violation of their 14th Amendment Equal Protection right and their 1st Amendment rights protecting freedom of religion and speech. The district court dismissed the case and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision. The case is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on April 17.

Murr v. Wisconsin, in which the Murr family filed a lawsuit against Wisconsin and St. Croix County. The Murr family purchased a 1.25 acre lot in 1960 and then years later purchased an adjacent 1.25 acre lot. The first lot housed a family cabin and the second was obtained as an investment. Children of the Murrs later inherited the land and decided to sell the investment lot, but were told by the government that new environmental regulations were in place and they couldn’t sell the land because the lots were commonly owned. The Murrs argued that their 5th Amendment right was violated because they were being deprived of the sale of one of the lots without just compensation. In this case, the Murrs claimed that the government should not be able to combine lots because they have a common owner and to avoid paying “just compensation” required by the 5th Amendment when private property is taken by the government. The Murrs argue that controlling precedent was established in a 1978 case, Penn Central Transportation v. New York City, in which the Supreme Court ruled that judges shouldn’t “divide a single parcel into discrete segments and attempt to determine whether rights in a particular segment have been entirely abrogated…”  When decided, this case will potentially impact individual property rights, which could ultimately affect landowners and regulators across the country. The status of this case is yet to be known, as it will be heard by the Supreme Court in March.

The third case, Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., is a case about a transgender male student who wants to use the boys’ bathroom at school. G.G. got permission from his school’s principle to use the boys’ bathroom, but the Gloucester County School Board later passed a policy forbidding him from it. The ACLU sued on behalf of G.G. arguing this was a violation of Title IX and his 14th Amendment Equal Protection right. The initial ruling was in favor of the school board, but that was later overturned by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. An injunction was then issued so that G.G. could start using the boy’s bathroom. The U.S. Supreme Court has since put the injunction on hold until it is decided whether to hear a full appeal on the lower court ruling or not. (Note – subsequent to the presentation, the Court vacated the lower court’s decision and remanded it to the lower court for reconsideration as the newly staffed US Department of Education has removed its earlier guidance.)

Ryan noted that all three cases share common themes, in particular regarding the extent of the authority of state and federal governments to impact individual rights and freedoms in pursuit of public health improvement. He then spoke about the potential impact that the appointment of the next Supreme Court Justice could have on these and other cases. He discussed the political views of the current judges and opined that the appointment of the ninth judge will likely result in a reconfiguration of decision making power on the Court for years to come.