MMI Monthly 

The electronic newsletter of the Munroe-Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center

April 10, 2017
A 'thank you' from the medical director 
At the turn of this century, the Human Genome Project was essentially complete giving us a map of the genes that direct growth, development, and maintenance of organisms . Scientists would say, "Now we hold the instructions to make a human being in our hands."
This past week, I have consulted with several patients in multiple hospitals where the effort is finding where those genetic instructions in an individual's development resulted in a brain anomaly, heart defect, seizure disorder or a multiple body-system disease of unknown etiology. It is our job as clinical geneticists to find those answers, not only to help with medical treatment, but to answer the "Why?" and the "What Now?" questions that are just as important. 
I want to take this opportunity to show my deepest appreciation to the folks of MMI. We are a team put together with a vision of bringing the "Why?" diagnosticians to the specialists in treatment and rehabilitation. While providing more diagnostic answers with our neuroscience, clinical and laboratory genetics divisions, our ability to provide specialized treatment and rehabilitation options is growing. 
We already have a head start with personalized medicine from our diagnostics to our treatment divisions. Our outstanding rehabilitation and specialized treatment centers make an immeasurable and practical impact on these patients and families.  
At MMI, we answer the questions of "Why?" and "What now?" while improving the quality of life, through programming, through critical family/patient advocacy, through education, and through the caring of the support staff. Together, y ou all foster these missions.  I would like to pass along my sincere thanks to everyone at MMI for the work they do.
Lois Starr, M.D.
Medical Director
Munroe-Meyer Institute
MMI's Sara Kupzyk, Ph.D., displays her new book.

Psychology's Dr. Kupzyk collaborates on first book

MMI faculty member Sara Kupzyk, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the MMI Department of Psychology, has collaborated on her first book, "Parenting Today's Children: A Developmental Perspective." Dr. Kupzyk teamed on the work with her mentor from Kansas University, Lynn Marotz, Ph.D.

To learn more about the project, click  here
From left, Graciela Sharif, LEND cultural diversity coordinator, Sen. Ben Sasse, Jennifer Brock, LEND clinical coordinator, and Malinda Childers, LEND PT resident.

LEND faculty, students reach out while in Washington, D.C.

Several of MMI's Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program faculty and students recently attended the Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C.  For more information on the visit, click  here

The Hope Tower on the UNMC campus.

MMI, Hope Tower 'Light It Up Blue' on April 2

For the first time, the Hope Tower on UNMC's Omaha campus, home to the Munroe-Meyer Institute, was lit up blue for autism awareness. The tower lit was during nighttime hours from approximately 8 p.m. Sunday to 7 a.m. Monday.

The MMI building on the UNMC campus was also lit blue for the first time.

"We are excited to be participating in this global effort to raise awareness," said Melonie Welsh, community engagement director at MMI. 

Light It Up Blue is an awareness initiative by Autism Speaks . For more information about Autism Speaks and Light It Up Blue, click here.

The MMI building on the UNMC campus.

Jacy Vermaas, center, works with students at Thomas Elementary School in Gretna.

MMI outreach event gets on students' (ulnar) nerves

By the time Jacy Vermaas got around to calling for volunteers, nearly every hand went up. Voluntarily. 

Vermaas (an occupational therapist) and Rashelle Hoffman (a physical therapist) are graduate students in the lab of Max Kurz, Ph.D. They were visiting Thomas Elementary School in Gretna as a community outreach event, speaking before an afterschool group of fifth-grade students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Club.

To read more, click here.
From left: Nicole Giron, Becky Gilbert, Karoly Mirnics, M.D., Ph.D., February standout Sarah Simmons and Kellie Coutts. Not pictured: Mark Conlin, Billy Retzlaff.

MMI Standouts program seeking nominations

March's MMI Standouts awardees included Kelley Coutts, recreation therapy; Nicole Giron, recreation therapy; Mark Conlin, business office; Billy Retzlaff, Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders; and Becky Gilbert, IT.

April awardees are Pearl Sorensen, physical therapy; Enoch Ulmer, speech; Paul Laikko, speech; Jessie Plude, speech; and Chris Engler, pediatric feeding disorders. Watch for their photo next month!

Nominations are being accepted for future monthly Standout awards. Awardees will be  invited to lunch with Dr. Mirnics, receive a coffee mug or water bottle and have their pictures featured in MMI Monthly.

Anyone in the MMI community may be nominated, and anyone on the UNMC campus or in the greater Omaha community may nominate. Anyone who works or volunteers at MMI is eligible, and up to five individuals will be selected monthly for this honor.

Nominations are due by 8 a.m. on the 15th of each month for the next cycle of Standouts, so there's still time to nominate for May. These nominations may be submitted online or e-mailed to  Sandy Willett for consideration .

Munroe-Meyer Guild announces first round of grants
The Munroe-Meyer Guild awarded two grants to departments at MMI in March.

The first, for $12,000, was for an assistive technology (AT) simulated home from the Speech-Language Pathology and Occupational Therapy Department. The equipment  will help children and adults test technology to see if it will benefit them at home before they purchase equipment. It also will help to  e stablish a simulated home with integrated and automated AT controls and  develop an interdisciplinary group of professionals to explore and develop new AT tools.

The second, for $2,500 to the Education and Child Development Department, will fund a pilot study that would measure executive functions for Newborn Intensive Care Unit graduates.

The pilot study, on high-risk NICU graduates, will examine the benefits of including the evaluation of executive functions --  a set of cognitive processes that include attentional control, inhibitory control, self-regulation, working memory and cognitive flexibility, as well as reasoning, problem solving and planning -- for the high-risk children attending the MMI TIPS clinic into the standard clinical assessment practice. The goal will be to help guide assessment practices and allow the clinical team to provide parents with developmental guidance related to the importance of executive functions studies.

"The Guild is excited to help people with the new, always changing, technology with the AT Simulated Home grant," said Guild President Luann Rabe. "Also, early assessment of any problems with NICU graduates help to prevent problems later in their development and this pilot study will achieve this goal." 

Rabe said there will be a second round of grant applications.
News in brief
Participants celebrate another successful Go Baby Go! build.

Go Baby Go project continues to roll
MMI's Department of Physical Therapy participated with Students of University of Nebraska American Physical Therapy Association (SUNAPTA) and engineering students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska at Omaha for  a third Go Baby Go! Nebraska! build and car give-away on April 1. Seven cars were modified and given away to kids in the community. One larger car was modified for preschoolers within Omaha Public Schools. Director of Physical Therapy Sandy Willett called the event "the smoothest, most organized event we have had to date."

MMI researchers honored for Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis article
The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis has chosen an article co-written by Kathryn Peterson and Cathleen Piazza, Ph.D., of the Munroe-Meyer Institute's pediatric feeding department, and Valerie Volkert, Ph.D., formerly of MMI, as the 2017 Contribution of the Year for the journal. The article is titled "A Comparison of a Modified Sequential Oral Sensory Approach to an Applied Behavior-Analytic Approach in the Treatment of Food Selectivity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder." The authors will receive an award at the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior banquet in May.

Dr. Dunaevsky speaks at Gordon Research Conference in Italy
Anna Dunaevsky, Ph.D., delivered a full-length presentation on "Dendrites: Molecules, Structure & Function" at the Gordon Research Conference held in Italy on March 26-31. The Gordon Research Conferences are very prestigious and are held all over the world.  Researchers must apply to attend, and the number of attendees is limited to 200. Researchers are encouraged to discuss cutting-edge, unpublished research to bring new ideas to the best researchers in the field, but only about 30 participants are invited to give talks.  The proceedings are usually published in the journal Science, which is the premier American scientific journal. 

  • Surya Mereddy, programmer/database associate, and Kelsey Tourek, child development program evaluator, are new employees in the MMI Department of Education and Child Development.
  • Faculty from the MMI Department of Psychology have been invited to speak about the integrated behavioral health care model this spring at the  National Council on Behavioral Health,  the Society for Pediatric Psychology,  the National Association for Rural Mental Health and  the Nemours "Developing and Researching  Advanced Models of Integrated Primary Care" conference.
Upcoming Events
Upcoming events of interest to the MMI community:

April 26: Mark Wallace, Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University, will deliver the MMI Community Lecture on "The Sensory World and Autism" at 5 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center, 202 S. 20th St., Omaha.  Dr. Wallace's studies of multisensory integration training in individuals with autism focuses on changing the perception of the outside world and provide a foundation for new strategies for autism treatments.  Cocktails and refreshments begin at 4:30 p.m. The event is presented by the Munroe-Meyer Institute and the Scottish Rite Valley of Omaha.  For information, call 402-306-4712. 

April 29-May 1: The All Around Town WhyArts Spring Art Show will feature an exhibition of works from WhyArts collaborators, including programs at MMI. Artwork will be on display from noon-8 p.m. April 29, noon-5 p.m. April 30 and a reception from noon-2 p.m. on May 1 at the Hot Shops Art Center, 1301 Nicholas St., Omaha.  

June 4: Registration is now open for the Scottish Rite Foundation's WalkRite for RiteCare. The event helps the Scottish Rite Foundation support the speech and language programs of the RiteCare Clinics at MMI. Click here for more information or to register.

June 11: Save the date for the Munroe-Meyer Guild's Garden Walk, which helps the Guild support programming at MMI. Watch future issues of MMI Monthly for more information on the event, including garden locations and ticket information!

June 21: Registration is now open for the RiteCare Classic Golf Outing and Benefit. The event helps the Scottish Rite Foundation support the speech and language programs of the RiteCare Clinics at MMI. Click here for more information or to register.
Links of the month
News from around the Internet of interest to the MMI community.

Omaha's KETV covers MMI and other efforts to "Light It Up Blue" for autism awareness.

The site Wrightslaw explores the ramifications of a Supreme Court ruling in favor of children with special needs and their parents.

Send your news to MMI Monthly
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