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Home | Tag Archives: TTUHCS El Paso

Tag Archives: TTUHCS El Paso

Video – Tech Talk: A Look Inside the Newest Hospital in the Sun City

In this week’s Tech Talk, Veronique Masterson gives you a look inside the newest hospital in the Sun City: The Hospitals of Providence Transmountain Campus.

A collaboration between Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso and The Hospitals of Providence, the new facility is set to open this spring.

Clip courtesy Chris Espinosa/TTUHSC El Paso.
Clip courtesy Chris Espinosa/TTUHSC El Paso.

TTUHSC El Paso Professor Certified as Expert HIV/AIDS Nurse

Rosemary Walulu, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor of nursing at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso), has been board certified as an HIV/AIDS nursing specialist. Dr. Walulu is the only nurse in the city of El Paso, and one of just 30 in the state of Texas, to hold this certification.

“I have had the privilege of working with vulnerable HIV-infected adolescents and their families throughout my professional career,” says Dr. Walulu. “So this certification is of great importance to me.”

The certification — officially called the HIV/AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRN) Certification — recognizes Dr. Walulu’s expertise in a complex knowledge base and range of skills related to HIV/AIDS, including family dynamics, grief and loss, coping mechanisms for chronic illness, care of immunocompromised clients and risk reduction.

In addition to teaching nursing students at TTUHSC El Paso, Dr. Walulu studies how HIV-infected adolescents transition from pediatric care to adult-centered care. Studies have shown that about 20 percent of all 20-year-olds with HIV do not seek follow-up care after their 21st birthday.

“Lack of assistance for adolescents to navigate health care systems can cause this dropout,” Dr. Walulu explains. “But it’s important to retain participation; it’s my hope to create transition services that can help smooth some of the processes to avoid gaps in care for this vulnerable population.”

The ACRN certification is jointly granted by the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC) and the HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board (HANCB), two nonprofit organizations that promote the professional development of nurses caring for those with HIV or AIDS.

TTUHSC’s Tech Talk: Week of June 27th

Veronique Masterson brings you all the events and goings on at Texas Tech UHSC here in El Paso.

Stories include a staff  member teaming up with women in leadership positions nation-wide to develop policies to support women in emergency medicine and a story on EPFD members graduating from a special program at TTUHSC El Paso.

Video: TTUHSC Tech Talk – Week of June 6th

In this week’s Tech Talk, Veronique Masterson brings your the preps for the upcoming visit of Texas Tech Foundation Board of Directors to the Campus, as well as the upcoming Night at the Ballpark.


New Dean and VP for Research named for TTUHSC El Paso’s Grad School of BioMed Science

On April 1, 2016, Peter Rotwein, M.D., and Rajkumar Lakshmanaswamy, Ph.D., will both receive new titles for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS).

The announcement was made last week by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) President Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A.

Peter RotweinDr. Rotwein has been appointed Vice President for Research. He is currently a tenured Professor and Chair in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, Associate Dean for Research at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine (PLFSOM), and Assistant Vice President for Research at TTUHSC El Paso.

Dr. Rotwein is an accomplished researcher and recipient of numerous honors and awards. He has a distinguished career in the field of endocrinology and metabolism as well as extensive experience in administration, research, education, and clinical affairs. He earned a B.A. from Yale University and his medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

With the transition of research administration and activities from Lubbock to El Paso, Dr. Rotwein will oversee all research areas. In his year and a half at TTUHSC El Paso, Dr. Rotwein has restructured the department and the Centers of Emphasis to be more efficient and productive.

Lakshmanaswamy has been appointed Dean for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He replaces the steadfast stewardship of Dr. Rotwein, who has served as Regional Dean of the GSBS since 2014. Lakshmanaswamy is currently a tenured Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences at PLFSOM, and was recently promoted to Professor. He is also the Director of Basic Sciences Research for the Center of Emphasis in Cancer Research.

Rajkumar Lakshmanaswamy-2

Lakshmanaswamy received his doctoral degree from the University of Madras, Chennai, India. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Cancer Research Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, California.

Lakshmanaswamy coordinated the efforts between our institution and TTUHSC in Lubbock and was responsible for submitting the application and documentation to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that resulted in TTUHSC El Paso gaining independent status during the current academic year.

Congratulations to Drs. Rotwein and Lakshmanaswamy on behalf of the entire TTUHSC El Paso community.

Student Research at TTUHSC Yields Impressive Results

This past summer, a group of students in the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine conducted a study to better understand treatment options for diseases like multiple sclerosis. The fledgling physicians — only first-year medical students — had little to no research experience, but their results were surprisingly significant.

“We’re really excited about this,” says Assistant Professor Cynthia Perry, Ph.D., who participated in the initial stages of the study. “Typically, it takes graduate students and postdocs a year or two to put out a publication, but our students, who didn’t come in with a lot of training, were incredibly productive.”

The team members, who published their work this past January in the journal Neuroscience, included medical students Harriet Barratt, Hailey Budnick and Ricardo Parra, as well as research assistant Russell Lolley who was recently accepted to the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine. Olivera Nesic-Taylor, Ph.D., a former associate professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso), served as the principal investigator and mentored the students until she left in January 2016.

The students specifically studied demyelination, a condition in which the myelin sheath that covers neurons is damaged, disrupting the electrical impulses that are sent from the brain to the rest of the body. Multiple sclerosis is one example of a demyelinating disease; in worst-case scenarios, patients lose their vision or even the ability to control their legs and walk.

The body normally reacts to demyelination by trying to repair the damage. Myelin-producing cells, called oligodendrocytes, die in demyelination, but cells named progenitors come to the rescue. Progenitors, which are present in the brain and spinal cord, transform into oligodendrocytes, thus replacing the deteriorating myelin.

In demyelinating diseases, however, these progenitor cells can fail to transform into oligodendrocytes. “So, we decided to try to hyper activate these progenitor cells, or the repair mechanism, so that it could more effective,” Perry explained.

The students’ role was to test the idea. Between November 2014 and August 2015, they ran a series of experiments in TTUHSC El Paso’s Laboratory for Education in Molecular Medicine (LEMM).

Under Nesic-Taylor’s guidance, they examined whether tamoxifen, a drug used to treat breast cancer, can activate progenitor cells into oligodendrocytes.

“We were interested in tamoxifen because it’s already approved by the Federal Drug Administration,” Perry says. “The drug has passed all the safety trials, so it’s a lot more appealing if we could find a way to repurpose it [for another disease].”

The drug worked. When the students added tamoxifen to progenitor cells in petri dishes, the cells transformed into oligodendrocytes. Their work suggests that tamoxifen — a clinically safe drug — could be used to treat demyelinating diseases by hyper-activating the body’s repair system. This novel idea has high clinical relevancy.

“Our findings were hard earned,” says Harriet Barratt, now a second-year medical student. “The life of a med student sometimes can limit the amount of time put in [to research]; hard work and precision were key. We worked hard to make the experiments flow smoothly, and we were relieved to determine that we had significant results.”

Students in the PLFSOM are required to take part in the Scholarly Activity Research Program (SARP), which emphasizes that medical students receive basic, clinical and transitional research experience. As part of the program, students must conduct a faculty-mentored research project prior to graduation.

“It’s imperative that medical students conduct research, not just for the depth of academic knowledge it can give you on your particular subject, but also because it’s a great way to learn patience with obtaining results,” Barratt says. “It’s also important to understand the work that goes into the basic science behind the scientific principles of medicine.”

Perry says the study proves that SARP is an effective research program for students. Even without major research funding, the team garnered impressive results. The work was supported by a seed grant from TTUHSC El Paso’s Office of the Assistant Vice President for Research.

Psychiatry Residency Program Wins Victor Teichner Award

The Psychiatry Residency program at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) has received the prestigious Victor J. Teichner Award.

The national award recognizes one residency program each year for its novel approaches to teaching psychotherapy and emphasis on patient respect.

“In our case, the award recognizes our efforts in transcultural psychotherapy and the integration of psychiatry into other medical specialties, such as sleep disorders and substance abuse medicine,” says Henry Weisman, M.D., director of TTUHSC El Paso’s Psychiatry Residency program.

The award will fund a visiting scholar, or psychoanalyst, to come and conduct seminars for TTUHSC El Paso residents, fellows and faculty. The university’s residency program will also have the opportunity to present a workshop at the upcoming meeting of the American Association of Directors of Psychiatry Residency Training (AADPRT).

Past recipients of the Teichner Award include psychiatry residency programs at Vanderbilt University, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of New Mexico.

The award honors the late Psychiatrist Victor Teichner for his creative teaching abilities and extraordinary dedication to patients. It is jointly sponsored by the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry (AAPDP) and AADPRT.

TTUHSC Study Unveils Potential Treatment for Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Neuroscientists have discovered a specific enzyme that plays a critical role in spinal muscular atrophy, and that suppressing this enzyme’s activity, could markedly reduce the disease’s severity and improve patients’ lifestyles.

Spinal muscular atrophy is a debilitating disease that causes weakness and wasting of the muscles. The disease ranges in severity with patients experiencing different symptoms, from the inability to sit up and stand, to trouble walking. In its severest form, the disease results in difficulty breathing and leads to death.

Laxman Gangwani, Ph.D., associate professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, is studying how the enzyme JNK3 plays a role in spinal muscular atrophy. Photo credit: Raul De La Cruz/TTUHSC El Paso
Laxman Gangwani, Ph.D., associate professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, is studying how the enzyme JNK3 plays a role in spinal muscular atrophy. Photo credit: Raul De La Cruz/TTUHSC El Paso

“We’ve identified an enzyme JNK3 as a therapeutic target to treat the symptoms of spinal muscular atrophy,” saysLaxman Gangwani, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Center of Emphasis in Neuroscience at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) who led the research.

In a recent study published in the December 15th issue of Human Molecular Genetics, Gangwani and his team of researchers at TTUHSC El Paso describe how mice with spinal muscular atrophy saw great improvement when the JNK3 enzyme was genetically inhibited to eliminate its activity. The finding suggests that patients with spinal muscular atrophy could also see improvement if treated with a drug that suppresses the activity of JNK3.

“We saw less muscle degeneration, more muscle growth and better muscle strength, and improvement in overall movement,” says Gangwani. “What’s more striking was a four-fold reduction in initial mortality period and a two-fold increase in total lifespan.”

Spinal muscular atrophy is caused by a genetic mutation that triggers the loss of spinal cord motor neurons — neurons that help control the body’s movements. As the neurons deteriorate, so does one’s ability to control their own movement.

This same study, however, found that inhibiting JNK3 in mice prevented the loss of motor neurons, which is particularly important to

From left to right: Microscopic images comparing the hind leg muscles of normal mice, mice with spinal muscular atrophy, and mice with spinal muscular atrophy that have had the enzyme JNK3 inhibited. JNK3 deficiency appears to reduce muscle degeneration (muscle-wasting) and increase muscle growth in mice with the disease. Image courtesy of the journal Human Molecular Genetics
From left to right: Microscopic images comparing the hind leg muscles of normal mice, mice with spinal muscular atrophy, and mice with spinal muscular atrophy that have had the enzyme JNK3 inhibited. JNK3 deficiency appears to reduce muscle degeneration (muscle-wasting) and increase muscle growth in mice with the disease. Image courtesy of the journal Human Molecular Genetics

prevent progression of the disease, says Gangwani.

“So far, spinal muscular atrophy research has focused on targeting the genetic mutation to prevent degeneration of spinal motor neurons, but it hasn’t been successful because of challenges associated with gene therapy,” he says. “This is the first study done that identifies a target, JNK3, that’s independent of the genetic mutation of spinal muscular atrophy for novel therapeutic development.”

The TTUHSC El Paso research team now plans to test pharmacological compounds that can inhibit JNK3 in mice to identify drug compounds that will slow the progression of the disease and reduce the overall burden of this illness in patients. They’ve also decided to patent their idea of using a JNK3 inhibitor to treat spinal muscular atrophy.

Gangwani says, “JNK3 represents a promising new avenue of research for clinical advances in developing a treatment.”

TTUHSC Family Medicine Spearheads HPV Vaccination Campaign

Physicians in the Department of Family and Community Medicine are spearheading a citywide effort that encourages young adults to get vaccinated for human papillomavirus, or HPV.

Dubbed “Time to Get Vaccinated” or “Es Tiempo de Vacunarte,” the program was started by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) physicians Eribeth Penaranda, M.D., MPH, Jennifer Molokwu, M.D., MPH, and Monica Reyes, Ph.D., MPH.

HPV is responsible for most cervical cancer cases. It is also associated with cancer of the vagina, vulva, anus in women, cancer of the penis in men, as well as cancers of the oral cavity in men and women. In all, HPV causes more than 27,000 cases of cancer in men and women each year in the U.S.

HPV infection and transmission, however, can be prevented with the HPV vaccine, which is recommended for males and females ages 9-26. The vaccine is administered in three doses.

“Time to Get Vaccinated” is offering education and no-cost HPV vaccination to those who qualify. The program is targeting young adults ages 18-26 and children ages 9-17, who receive parental or guardian consent for the vaccine.

The program began in earnest in June 2015 with promotoras, or community health workers, conducting outreach to recruit, educate, and vaccinate eligible participants in El Paso County. Since then, it has built a network of community partners that include federally qualified health centers, schools, colleges, local health fairs, churches, and non-profit organizations that help facilitate the implementation of the program.

The ultimate goal of “Time to Get Vaccinated” is to decrease the number of HPV associated cancers in El Paso County, and specifically:

  • Increase health care provider recommendations for the HPV vaccine;
  • Increase HPV immunization among residents of El Paso County, 5,000 individual doses of the vaccine are available;
  • Reach 5,000 people for education and navigation services;
  • And deliver 1,650 no-cost HPV vaccines to eligible recipients.

Dr. Penaranda is seeking additional locations for education and referrals. For more information about this and other cancer prevention programs in the Department of Family and Community Medicine please call Dr. Monica Reyes at (915) 215-4979.

“Time to Get Vaccinated” is one of four cancer prevention and screening programs funded by the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) at TTUHSC El Paso.

Author: Texas Tech University Health Science Center El Paso

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