Year in Review: Key USF Health stories in 2017

As we look forward to a New Year, let’s take time to celebrate key student and faculty successes, research and innovation advances, and clinical care care and community engagement accomplishments that have contributed to the pursuit of excellence at USF Health in 2017.  Here’s just some of the year’s stories that encompass our journey on the road to preeminence.


USF Engineering and Morsani College of Medicine partner to create Department of Medical Engineering
The USF Florida College of Engineering and the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine established the Department of Medical Engineering, a unique transdisciplinary concept that will combine the related aspects of engineering and medicine while providing access to real-world health care environments for education and research.

USF Health selects Dr. Harry van Loveren to lead a new Neurosciences Initiative
With the state-of-the-art USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute as its centerpiece and driving force, a new neuroscience initiative was spearheaded by Dr. Harry van Loveren.

Public health leaders develop action plan urging research, collaboration to address gun safety
As firearm-related deaths and injuries continue to rise, more attention is needed to develop strategies to mitigate mortality caused by firearms, according to public health researchers, including the USF College Health’s Karen Liller, PhD.

Pioneering nanotechnology research has applications for cardiovascular diseases
The founding director of the USF Health Heart Institute has a passion for innovation, translational medicine and entrepreneurship. Samuel A. Wickline, MD, has parlayed his expertise in harnessing nanotechnology for molecular imaging and targeted treatments into an impressive …

Students showcase their talents to raise funds for USF Health BRIDGE Clinic
Kristal Ha’s emotional poem about her mother migrating to America after the Vietnam War, won the hearts of judges and more than 200 guests at the Annual BANDaids for BRIDGE Talent Show on Jan. 19 at the T. Pepin Hospitality Centre.

USF unveils preliminary renderings for new medical school and cardiovascular institute in downtown Tampa
The renderings offered an early look at USF’s newest state-of-the-art facility, which will combine under one roof a medical school to teach the next generation of physicians and a cardiovascular research institute to pioneer new discoveries for heart health.


USF awarded $2.45-million by state for Zika virus research, vaccine development
The University of South Florida continues to make Zika a research focus. That’s evident through various research projects currently in the works.

The WELL expands to CAMLS! New suite dedicated to student services
The centralized services that support USF Health students on the main USF campus in north Tampa opened a suite of offices at USF’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS) in downtown Tampa.

USF Health hosts historic Research Day, showcasing the best in science – VIDEO
In what was likely the largest USF Health Research Day on record, nearly 360 presenters filled the Ballroom at the Marshall Student Center with their poster presentations, offering a comprehensive overview of the range and quality of research happening at USF Health.


Lucky match! USF senior medical students learn where they will spend their residencies – VIDEO
The celebratory vibe had a glimmer of green this year – spring green, USF green and St. Patrick’s Day green – with students and family members also wearing specially designed shirts that helped raise $2,500 toward MCOM scholarships.

Medicine, engineering researchers use facial expression software to help measure pain felt by newborns
For generations, nurses tending to newborns have been able to tell the subtle difference between a baby’s cry of hunger and that of pain.

USF College of Pharmacy leads the way in team-based practice – VIDEO
The USF Health college strongly emphasizes interprofessional education to prepare the pharmacists of the future and improve patient care.

Cost of neurological diseases in U.S. approaching $800 billion a year
A University of South Florida study shows research investment is critical to prevent destabilizing economic impact.


USF biomedical researcher studies irregular cardiac electrical signals
Seeking to understand how the heart short circuits, Sami Noujaim, PhD, looks for new drugs to fix atrial fibrillation. The work has particular significance for Noujaim, who within the last three years lost an older brother to sudden cardiac death and had his 80-year-old father  diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

Ob-Gyn fellow receives prestigious award to study breastfeeding benefits on maternal health
Research shows breastfeeding is good for babies. But is breastfeeding also good for mothers and their long-term health?

Graduating medical students become physicians during memorable commencement ceremony
Persistence and determination paid off for the Class of 2017 at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.  After four years of hard work and rigor, the senior graduating medical students became doctors — accepting their academic hoods and diplomas in front of friends, family, USF leaders and guests during…

Innovative project to help prevent firefighter injury – VIDEO
USF physical therapy researchers use advanced technologies to pinpoint physical job demands.

USF Health’s new leadership board to strengthen interprofessional clinical collaboration
The USF Physicians Group created a new governance structure, called USF Health Care, to better reflect a faculty practice group incorporating professionals from across health care disciplines, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, public health professionals, physical therapists and physician assistants.

Medical student awarded Howard Hughes Medical Institute Medical Research Fellowship
Anna Cheng was the first University of South Florida medical student to receive the highly competitive fellowship, which allows exceptional medical, veterinary and dentistry students to conduct rigorous, mentored laboratory research at top institutions across the country.


USF Health graduates celebrate milestone at commencement ceremony
It was an unforgettable night for USF Health students at the 111th USF Commencement Ceremony – marking the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new journey.

USF Health Ob/Gyn programs featured in national ACOG film series
The USF Health Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology was one of eight programs across the country selected to be highlighted in a television film series produced by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

USF Health welcomes the charter class for physician assistant program – VIDEO
The USF Health Physician Assistant (PA) program officially started May 8 when 30 students, the inaugural class, gathered in a lecture hall to begin classes.  The excitement was palpable.

Heart Institute Director Dr. Samuel Wickline welcomed as first TGH Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine
The event also served to recognize Dr. Wickline’s appointment as the founding director of the USF Health Heart Institute, a key component of the new USF expansion of the Morsani College of Medicine into downtown Tampa.

First-generation college student first from USF Health to win top Graduate Student Research Symposium health sciences award
Emily Palumbo has added yet another achievement to her already illustrious academic resume, becoming thhttp://First-generation college student first from USF Health to win top Graduate Student Research Symposium health sciences awarde first USF Health student to place first in the health sciences category of the Statewide Graduate Student Research Symposium.

USF Health names Dr. Victoria Rich as dean of USF College of Nursing
Dr. Rich, a transformative nurse leader and innovator, brings a wealth of knowledge to USF in interprofessional education and practice.

USF partnership with local zoo helps save manatees – VIDEO
The USF College of Public Health is coming to the rescue of Florida’s growing manatee population —  beloved sea creatures still listed as a “threatened” species.


USF Health researcher joins NASA deep-sea mission
Dominic D’Agostino, PhD,  of the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, was selected for his research conducted at the USF Hyperbaric Biomedical Research Laboratory on how extreme environments impact the human body.

USF College of Public Health wins Gates Foundation Challenges Explorations grant
The global health project study by a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Community and Family Health will study Zimbabwe women’s perspectives on the side effects of hormonal contraceptives.

Florida Blue $1 Million Gift Supports Health Knowledge Exchange in New USF Downtown Building
More than a health sciences library, the Florida Blue Health Knowledge Exchange will serve as a hub for connecting people and ideas in the new USF downtown buildin


Dr. Mack Wu studies molecular control of ischemia-reperfusion injury, leaky gut
His group’s work has broad implications for a variety of conditions including stroke, heart attack, thrombosis, sepsis, trauma or other inflammatory diseases associated with microvascular injury.


TGH, USF Health create new model for advanced organ disease
Noted transplant physician Dr. David Weill was named director of the new Institute for Advanced Organ Disease and Transplantation, which brings together the four organ transplant programs under singular leadership.

USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute finds amyloid PET scan leading to better Alzheimer’s disease management
The Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute is participating in a nationwide study looking at whether Medicare should cover the costly amyloid PET scan.


Failure to attempt type 2 diabetes prevention results in up to $820 million wasted in health care costs
A USF College of Pharmacy researcher leads a study that finds using metformin to treat patients with prediabetes would save approximately $20 per patient each year, resulting in $820 million saved annually in health care costs.

USF doctors perform unique procedure to save patient with infected pacemaker wires – VIDEO
Pacemakers help people live longer, active lives. They’re also often worn for decades at a time. But a pacemaker’s wiring could get infected, and the signs are too similar to typical ailments. It’s something 68-year-old Richard Agger of Brandon, Fla. experienced first-hand while trying to treat what he thought was a bacterial infection.

USF College of Nursing receives $2.6 million NIH grant to study link between pregnancy, depression and a parasite
Dr. Maureen Groer heads a group of USF Health researchers in a five-year study examining the relationship between a common parasite and how it affects the brain of pregnant Hispanic women.


Medical Class of 2021 receives white coats at special ceremony
For Bianca Arboleda, who was born in Florida and raised in Puerto Rico, getting into medical school was quite the journey.

Helping one another: USF comes together for Hurricane Irma – VIDEO
As Hurricane Irma churned toward Florida’s west coast area last week, USF Bulls did not just hunker down or evacuate in preparation for the monster storm. They rallied big time.

Construction officially begins on new facility for Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute – VIDEO
Inside Amalie Arena, and with a view above the bustling construction site across the street, USF leaders, friends and supporters from throughout the region gathered to mark the start of construction of the new USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute.

Dr. Thomas Rutherford practices superior medicine and patients recognize the difference
When Thomas Rutherford, MD, sees a patient, he really sees the patient’s entire family. He is an ovarian cancer surgeon and many times the type of cancer his patient has is caused through genetic mutations that were passed to her by one of her parents. It also means she will pass it on to her children.

Research at USF Health reveals ALS and FTD gene link to pathology
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), two rare neurodegenerative diseases also considered as spectrum disorders, affect thousands of Americans every year. However, researchers did not know exactly why the two conditions share a common genetic mutation in multiple genes until a new research breakthrough at USF Health.


USF physicians donate supplies, treat patients in Puerto Rico
A total of 12 USF physicians will travel to Puerto Rico over the next two months to provide additional medical care. Many have disaster relief experience helping local physicians and hospitals care for victims of earthquakes and disease outbreaks in other countries.

USF physicians earn spots on 2017-18 Best Doctors in America list
Once again, USF Health physicians fill the biennial Best Doctors in America® list, one of the largest ongoing peer physician polls in health care. This year, the local list included 115 USF Health doctors who care for patients and families throughout the Tampa Bay area, and many were named within multiple subspecialties.

Neuroscientist probes how different states of tau drive brain cell damage
Research by Laura Blair’s team seeking to untangle tau may lead to targeted treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Fish consumption offers same protection in preventing childhood asthma as fish oil supplements
Pregnant women who consume fish rather than fish oil supplements are just as likely to protect their offspring from developing asthma, University of South Florida researchers in the Department of Allergy and Immunology suggest.


Dr. Laurie Woodard among nine physicians honored by AAMC for outstanding contributions to academic medicine VIDEO
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recognized University of South Florida physician Dr. Laurie Woodard for exemplifying qualities of a caring and compassionate mentor in the teaching and advising of medical students. She was presented with the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicne Award  on Nov. 5 during the AAMC’s annual meeting.

Dr. David Smith to lead newly established Department of Plastic Surgery
The USF Health Morsani College of Medicine’s Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery has become a freestanding Department of Plastic Surgery – a transition approved by the USF System Faculty Senate and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee. David J. Smith, Jr., MD, accepted the role as founding chair of the new Department of Plastic Surgery.

Intervention becomes first to successfully reduce risk of dementia
A 10-year study led by USF’s Jerri Edwards concludes computerized brain training program reduces the risk of dementia 29 percent.

Mumas give $2 million to fund new women’s health center at USF Health
A new transformative gift by Pam and Les Muma added an exclamation point to the billion-dollar USF: Unstoppable fundraising campaign milestone. Part of that $15 million gift will fund a new women’s health center at USF Health.


Community benefits most from new USF Health Concussion Center
USF Health faculty and administrators filled the neurocognitive testing room in the USF Health Concussion Center in Carrollwood on Dec. 5 as part of  informal opening celebration.  The new center offers health care providers across the Tampa Bay area a facility dedicated to treating patients of all ages who have head injuries and symptoms of concussion.

Tackling medicine’s biggest problems by thinking very small
As the technology of medicine and drug development and delivery continues to shrink down to the nanoscale, students at the USF College of Pharmacy are prepared to be leaders in this cutting-edge field. The college’s Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology master’s program graduated its first class of students at the Fall 2017 Commencement ceremony.

USF cardiovascular researcher highlighted in “Reasons for Research” video series – VIDEO
Hana Totary-Jain of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine is among leading scientists from across the country who appear in the Research!America “Reasons for Research” video series to discuss why federal support for medical and health research is crucial to saving lives and reducing health care costs.

Dr. Dolly Swisher appointed director of USF’s physical therapy school
During her past year as interim director of the USF School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, Dr. Swisher was instrumental in helping realign the school’s leadership team to better balance teaching and clinical roles, and to improve clinical practice efficiencies. She assumes the role of permanent director Jan. 1.

Early study shows new shoe attachment can help stroke patients improve their gait – VIDEO
A new device created at the University of South Florida – and including a cross-disciplinary team of experts from USF engineering, physical therapy and neurology – shows early promise for helping correct the signature limp experienced by many stroke survivors.

To check out USF Health’s Top 10 Stories of 2017, click here.

-Compiled by Anne DeLotto Baier, University and USF Health Communications and Marketing