Wednesday, August 24, 2016

$1 Million Grant to Help Mentor the Social Workers Who Treat Older Adults

by Jim H. Smith
A new program called Supervisory Leaders in Aging, launched last fall with a $1 million, three-year grant from the John A. Hartford Foundation, aims to help National Association of Social Workers (NASW) chapters in New York, Maryland, Illinois and Florida significantly improve the delivery of healthcare and social services to older adults. The program has grown, in part, due to the involvement of Daniel B. Kaplan, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Social Work, who serves as co-investigator on the grant.
“My passion is for clinical social work,” Dr. Kaplan said. “My interest is in geriatric mental health. While I was directing the counseling program at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, I became increasingly aware that many older people with dementia and their families were not getting the care they needed because providers lacked necessary skills and knowledge.”
Determined to do something about that problem, he enrolled in the doctoral program at Columbia University School of Social Work. There, in his first semester, he met Barbara Silverstone, Ph.D., a leading figure in the field of service for older people and those with disabilities. The two began collaborating on the pilot projects in New York, between 2009 and 2014, that later became the Supervisory Leaders in Aging program.
Dr. Kaplan and Dr. Silverstone developed a series of gerontological social work supervision professional development workshops that are currently underway in each of the four NASW chapters involved in the current demonstration project supported by the Hartford grant. The two collaborators manage the program’s implementation, develop the curriculum, identify faculty members and evaluate results.
“Through those four chapters, we will enroll a total of 160 supervisors,” explained Dr. Kaplan. “They are master’s-level social workers, all of whom supervise staff who serve older adults. These participants will each complete a 10-module training program that covers both gerontological social work and leadership skills.”
The 2.5-month program will run each year in the four sites. “The participants will put their training to immediate use as they support the estimated 1,280 staff [collectively] who report to them,” explained Dr. Kaplan. “All of those social workers serve older adults—more than 100,000 clients every year. Thanks to Supervisory Leaders in Aging, we can expect them to be providing a much higher level of service.”
The aim then is to roll out the program through NASW chapters nationwide. Making big change in society is hard, Dr. Kaplan noted, and it takes time. “That’s why I’m so excited about this program,” he said. “Supervisory Leaders in Aging is not just training. It’s also mentoring. Each cohort of trainees will help others in their service to older adults. Thousands of social workers nationwide will be better equipped to serve older adults.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Computers, Chemistry and Cancer

by Michael Schiavetta
When Adelphi senior Zachary Fallon uses molecular dynamics software to simulate how leukemia impacts the function of white blood cells, he’s not just working on a lab assignment—he’s helping to find solutions that may benefit millions of cancer patients worldwide.
Fallon is one of eight students working alongside Maria Nagan, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry, on this and related research in computational chemistry.
This relatively new field of science was born during the dawn of the modern computer age in the early 1980s. It allows scientists to predict how molecules and solids react in controlled virtual environments using advanced software. Such technology is necessary to observe and study complex interactions at the atomic level. And because the experiments are simulated on computers, scientists are able to incorporate chemical components that may ordinarily be too rare or expensive to obtain. Dr. Nagan leads computational chemistry research at Adelphi with the help of her student scientists, designing projects accessible to undergraduates but stringent enough to meet the standards of the scientific community
“This is an emerging field still in its infancy,” she said. At Adelphi, Dr. Nagan and the students in her lab use computers to model ribonucleic acid (RNA)—the acid responsible for carrying out genetic instructions—its structure and how it interacts with other molecules to understand how chemical interactions affect its shape and function. “These functions are usually key points in viral or healthy cell development,” she added. “Discerning RNA structure and interactions with other biological molecules may lead to better drug development and treatments.”
Fallon explained that he and his classmates have been working with Dr. Nagan to examine how water molecules bridge peptide-RNA complexes in retroviruses such as human T-cell leukemia and HIV. They are studying the role of water in these interactions to determine how a synthetic replacement can stop key events in the viral life cycle. “Once you understand those interactions, you can create a drug that stops it from reproducing,” Fallon added. He plans to work in the pharmaceutical industry designing structured-based drugs after earning his degree.
Dr. Nagan joined Adelphi nearly three years ago. Throughout her career, she has been awarded grants totaling approximately $2.5 million from organizations such as NASA, the National Science Foundation, Petroleum Research Fund and the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. In 2013, she was inducted into the McNair Mentor Hall of Fame and named Researcher of the Year by the Kirksville (Mo.) Chapter of Sigma Xi, a global nonprofit society of more than 80,000 scientists and engineers.
In addition to Fallon’s research (which is to be published in a peer-reviewed journal), Dr.Naganand her students are researching how modified RNA nucleobases can help produce better antibiotics. The researchers will incorporate quantum mechanics and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, combining the study of electrons with structural data, to build models of these modified bases.
Her team is also exploring one of humanity’s most intriguing philosophical and scientific questions— where life on Earth originated; specifically, the role of RNA in forming its basic building blocks. “We’re looking to find out what are the essential and minimal ingredients for life,” she said. “Where do we come from? And how can we transform life as we know it?”
This article was published in the 2016 issue of Erudition magazine. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Trauma Through the Generations

by Susan Delson
“I realized that any child born into a family by definition is going to be a bearer of the trauma of the family unless the trauma has been addressed and resolved,” Dr. O’Loughlin said. “And, unfortunately, we know that when a war occurs, or a genocide, or a refugee crisis,” the challenges of daily life are so demanding that “the majority of people are left to internalize their suffering.” He noted that philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once said: “I turn into stone but my pain goes on.”As a clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst and award-winning scholar of early childhood education, Michael O’Loughlin, Ph.D., a professor at Adelphi, has long been familiar with the impact of trauma on human suffering. But the more he dealt with it on the clinical level, the more he came to understand trauma as having not only personal but also social and historical dimensions.
While Dr. O’Loughlin has been studying and writing about intergenerational trauma since the mid-2000s, 2014 saw the publication of two significant contributions to the field. Coedited with Marilyn Charles, Ph.D., Fragments of Trauma and the Social Production of Suffering: Trauma, History, and Memory (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) examines the experience of trauma in a variety of global settings, from Maori communities in New Zealand to distressed African American neighborhoods in the United States.
“That’s really a book about application of trauma to clinical or educational work,” Dr. O’Loughlin said. A companion volume, The Ethics of Remembering and the Consequences of Forgetting: Essays on Trauma, History, and Memory (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), which he edited, is “a more theoretical book, and the essays are focused primarily on trauma-related problems in different parts of the world.” Among the topics are the consequences of exhuming mass graves in Spain after the fascist era; designing a 9/11 memorial in New York City; and the effects of trauma on ongoing generations of Irish immigrants in London. 
“They’re all attempts to show how people—not only psychoanalysts but anthropologists and historians—are using this kind of theory to help understand the memories that are buried by society. Intentionally buried,” Dr. O’Loughlin said. “And how we can reclaim those memories, and hopefully use them to create a healing space for societies.”
Dr. O’Loughlin divides his teaching equally between the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education and the Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, where he teaches elective courses on trauma in the Ph.D. and master’s degree programs. Two of his doctoral students are currently doing dissertations in this field: one on Lithuanian deportees in the 1950s and the other on survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings during World War II.
His own writing in this field has recently taken an autobiographical turn. “I just finished writing another chapter on my own life history and how the things that I inherited, good and bad, affected my ability to be creative and to be free in the world, or inhibited that in some respects,” he said. “And I’m entertaining the possibility of writing a book on the Irish famine and its long-term intergenerational effects.”
This article was published in the 2016 issue of Erudition magazine. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Overcoming Barriers to Better Healthcare for Families in New York’s Most Diverse Neighborhoods

by Jim H. Smith
Growing up on the outskirts of Brooklyn’s sprawling Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in the 1970s, Carolyn Springer, Ph.D., associate professor in the Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, noticed that there were significant life expectancy issues related to healthcare in the community. “Many people delayed getting care until it was too late,” she said.
Dr. Springer never lost interest in that problem. As a graduate student in social psychology at Columbia University, she took a job with the New York City Department of Education. The focus was on children who were chronically missing school. Many did so because of persistent health issues such as asthma.
From 1996 to 1997, she worked for the federally funded Healthy Start program, which targeted the South Bronx, Central Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant. The program strives to prevent infant mortality in communities where the rate dramatically exceeds the national average, and where rates of low birth weight, preterm birth, maternal mortality and maternal morbidity are also significantly elevated.
“I was a senior research analyst, compiling the data for planning and program development,” Dr. Springer said. She found the work so rewarding that she decided to make it the heart of her career.
Since joining Adelphi in 2003, her research has focused on the evaluation of educational and health programs for communitybased organizations, especially those involved with maternal and child health.
Her work with the Queens Comprehensive Perinatal Council, which was founded in 1988 to coordinate maternal and child health services in Queens, is a good example. It has touched on a wide range of issues, including teenage pregnancy, fatherhood, SIDS, asthma and premature births, especially in communities with high rates of teen pregnancy and low birth weight, high percentages of women who receive late or no prenatal care, risky behavior during pregnancy and undocumented immigrant populations. “Two main issues are breastfeeding and, more recently, attitudes toward mental health,” she added.
Dr. Springer has employed a variety of research tools to explore those issues. Through surveys, focus groups and workshops, for example, she and her graduate student collaborators evaluated and addressed breastfeeding patterns among African American women whose rates of breastfeeding initiation and continuation are lower than national averages.
As a program evaluator for the Brooklyn Perinatal Network, she helped complete a comprehensive health-needs assessment for North Central Brooklyn to inform policy changes in healthcare; assisted with the network’s Centers for Disease Control–funded REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health) project aimed at improving healthy living; and provided support for its Infant Mortality Reductive Initiative.
“We have seen that comprehensive approaches can lead to decreases of greater than 10 percent in infant mortality rates, that there is a greater awareness among healthcare providers of the social determinants of health and that participating in educational workshops can have a significant and positive impact on selfefficacy, knowledge and attitudes about breastfeeding,” Dr. Springer said. “It’s exciting to really see change occurring—to see families take better care of their health.”
This article was published in the 2016 issue of Erudition magazine. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Treating Trauma By Identifying its Sociopolitical Roots

by Jim H. Smith
Early in her career, while working as a social worker serving children and adolescents, Laura Quiros, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Social Work, observed that adolescents with substance abuse problems often relapsed despite her best efforts. Later, working with women who also were in recovery for substance abuse issues, she noticed a similar trend. “The women would enter a treatment center for a time, but once they returned to the community they relapsed,” she said. “I realized I needed to better understand the environment in which their problems had first emerged.”
The common thread, she discovered, was trauma. “Nearly everyone who is served by a public mental health or substance abuse program has experienced some sort of trauma,” she said. “It is an underlying cause of their problems, but many treatment programs emphasize only addiction. Unless the trauma is addressed as part of treatment, chances of a successful outcome are significantly reduced.”
Dr. Quiros’ interest in the impact of trauma and the failure of many traditional treatment models to effectively address it was a compelling factor in her decision to obtain her doctorate in 2009. And it has been a key focus of her research into trauma informed care (TIC) in the ensuing years.
“TIC is a rapidly evolving area of mental health treatment that is grounded in the understanding that trauma has played a significant role in the lives of people with a wide range of mental health and addiction problems,” she explained. “Contrary to traditional approaches to mental health and addiction treatment, it demands that professionals consider the significance of trauma in their clients’ lives.”
Central to the effectiveness of TIC as a treatment strategy is what Dr. Quiros refers to as a “liberation mind-set.” She explained that “the traditional treatment approach focuses on saving ‘victims.’ Traditional psychology has failed to provide a complex analysis of how both society and individuals participate in the construction of their world and how this dynamic, in turn, shapes the way individuals see themselves and are seen by others.” Too often the conceptualization as well as the treatment of trauma is “rigid and narrow, and support services are based on the over-generalized experiences [of] middle-class, white women and men.”
Dr. Quiros’ scholarship helps to broaden the definition of trauma by focusing on the sociopolitical complexity of trauma. She is able to understand how trauma is intrinsically and systematically linked to experiences of racism, sexism, classism, ethno-religious oppression and homophobia. How individuals see themselves and are seen by others varies strikingly from culture to culture, said Dr. Quiros, whose work on TIC is informed by her research on the social construction of racial and ethnic identity. By way of example, she explained that she studies “the nuances of race and culture among Latinas and the negotiation of identity within various social contexts.” TIC, she said, aims to deal directly with individuals’ social locations and histories of trauma. It aims to help them recognize how both society and past trauma have affected and are affecting them.
“A major part of my mission as a teacher is to help my students understand the significance and complexity of race, culture and trauma, and its treatment,” she said.
This article was published in the 2016 issue of Erudition magazine

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Death & Dairy in New York State

By Margaret Gray, Ph.D.

Milk is promoted as nature’s perfect food. More than any other food, milk taps into idyllic nostalgia for farm life and the marketing of dairy products takes advantage of milk’s prized position. Yet, dairy farming is dangerous and fatalities are too common, especially on New York’s smaller farms.

The statistics are telling. New York—ranked third in dairy production in the country—saw 61 fatalities on dairy farms from 2006 to 2014, according to the New York State Department of Health. The main causes of dairy death are tractor rollovers and entanglement in other farm machinery.

New York’s dairy farm fatalities outstrip those of California, the nation’s leader in dairy production. From 2007 to 2012, New York saw 34 dairy farm deaths, while California, which regularly produced more than three times as much milk as New York during that time, had 14 fatalities.

Overall from 2007 to 2012, New York’s fatality rate per 100,000 workers was 2.4, but it was 35.8 in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The next highest industry was construction, with 8.3.

Read Margaret Gray's full article on dairy farming.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Better Care for Huntington’s Disease Caregivers

by Bonnie Eissner
Most of us—at least those of us who lack scientific training—associate clinical research with the second definition of clinical: cool, analytical, dispassionate. Talk to Marie Cox, D.N.P., clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Public Health, though, and it is apparent that her clinical research is anything but dispassionate.
Dr. Cox studies Huntington’s disease, but not from the point of view of its victims. Rather, she looks at the quality of life of their caregivers. She became interested in the field in the early 2000s when, as the research nurse coordinator in neuroscience at Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ Health System), she worked on research trials for patients with Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. She subsequently worked as a nurse practitioner treating patients with these conditions and similar ones.
Huntington’s disease has been called the disease of families. If one of your parents has Huntington’s, you have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the gene. There is no known cure, and the disease, which usually sets in during one’s 30s or 40s, is devastating. Nerve cells in the brain break down over a 10- to 20-year period, resulting in a gradual decline in the ability to reason, walk and speak.
Caring for the patient often falls to a family member and the burden can be enormous. The disease is relatively rare—there are about 30,000 cases in the United States—and the victims are often too young to go into traditional nursing homes. Add to that the pain of knowing that a victim’s offspring also have a high likelihood of carrying the gene.
As she began to work in the area, Dr. Cox noticed that “when someone is diagnosed with the disease, it was really the family member that needed a lot of attention—as much as the person diagnosed themselves.”
The observation led her to study the quality of life of Huntington’s disease caregivers. A 2009 survey she conducted among caregivers at four sites indicated a lack in social support services, both for Huntington’s victims and the people—usually family members—who care for them.
That conclusion led Dr. Cox and a colleague, Carol Moskowitz, a consultant at Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center—a skilled nursing facility for Huntington’s disease care—to design their latest study: in-depth interviews with a smaller number of caregivers. “We’re going to ask them questions such as, ‘What works? What do you do to keep that person with Huntington’s disease at home?’” Dr. Cox said. Their ultimate goal is to share the results with families, nurses and other healthcare providers to help them care for persons with Huntington’s disease in the community. They also hope to find ways to reduce unnecessary healthcare expenses by keeping people well supported in the community.
Lowering healthcare costs ties in closely with New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recently announced $45 million Vital Access/Safety Net Provider Program to improve community care for the most vulnerable members of the population.
“You never know what’s going to come out of” qualitative interviews, Dr. Cox said. She is excited by the endless possibilities and the promise of finding “some helpful information to share with the Huntington’s disease community to at least put some comfort into other people’s lives.”
This article was published in the 2016 issue of Erudition magazine