Public service leaders poised to affect change

August 11, 2014

Imelda Ojeda plans to address the unique needs of the Southwest population by developing policies and advocacy for children’s access to quality health care and education. Emily Fritcke will contribute to the improvement of international relations and the advancement of women’s rights. Anika Larson sees herself developing federal policy in public and environmental health.

Ojeda, Fritcke and Larson are among the 15 dynamic student leaders chosen as 2014 Spirit of Service Scholars, recognizing their demonstrated commitment to public service and promise as transformational leaders. student speaking at podium during luncheon Download Full Image

“These students are not waiting to graduate to put their ideas to work,” says Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Programs at Arizona State University. “They embrace the complex challenges facing us, and are actively moving forward with solutions that strengthen our communities locally and globally.”

The scholars will be honored at a breakfast with local leaders and community partners on Oct. 14 at the A. E. England building on ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus.

“The scholars chosen for this program bring a mix of talents, experience and knowledge. They are a great complement to each other, and together they help high school students succeed. They produce an exciting mix of intellect and community involvement. Hopefully, the Spirit of Service Scholars program will give them that added impetus to serve their communities, nation and world,” says Rick DeGraw, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of CopperPoint Mutual Insurance and chairman of the Spirit of Service Scholars Leadership Committee.

Now in its fifth year, the program helps prepare these young professionals to take leadership roles in public and private nonprofit sectors through scholarships, mentoring and real-world experiences. The Spirit of Service Scholars program is offered through the College of Public Programs, but the students represent colleges from across the university, from freshmen to doctoral students.

The program also includes junior scholars, representing five area high schools. High school students selected for the program based on their interest in public service are mentored by their university counterparts in the program.

The 2014-2015 scholars include students from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Public Programs, the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, the School of Letters and Sciences, and the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Scholars receive a $5,000 scholarship award, hands-on learning, mentorship and networking opportunities. Two scholarships are named in memory of Gabe Zimmerman, one of six people killed in the Tucson shootings on Jan. 8, 2011. This year, an additional scholarship has been established in the name of Debra Friedman, former dean of the college and ASU vice president.

Since its inception, the Spirit of Service Scholars program has been strongly supported by CopperPoint Mutual Insurance Company, Helios Education Foundation, Cox Communications, APS, HighGround and many other corporate and foundation partners.

The 2014-2015 Spirit of Service Scholars

• Lauren Bacon, junior, English linguistics with minors in philosophy, Italian and TESOL

• German Cadenas, fourth year, Ph.D., counseling psychology

• Courtney Carter, senior, urban and metropolitan studies, and urban planning

• Katie Curiel, second year, master of science, global technology and development

• Steve Elliott, fifth year, Ph.D., biology and society

• Leah Fiacco, senior, economics and political science

• Emily Fritcke, senior, English literature and history with a minor in Arabic studies

• John Gallagher, fourth year, Ph.D., social work

• Anika Larson, senior, biological sciences and global studies

• Devin Oakes, senior, nonprofit leadership and management

• Imelda Ojeda, second year, master of social work and master of public administration

• Jeffrey Ong, first year, master of public administration

• Katherine Richard, senior, economics with minors in French and mathematics

• Lauren Twigg, second year, master of public administration

• Cory Tyszka, third year, J.D. law with a certificate in law, science and technology

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


New method of detecting bone loss could help predict disease progression

August 11, 2014

A team of researchers from Arizona State University and Mayo Clinic is showing how a staple of earth science research can be used in biomedical settings to predict the course of disease.

The researchers tested a new approach to detecting bone loss in cancer patients by using calcium isotope analysis to predict whether myeloma patients are at risk for developing bone lesions, a hallmark of the disease. X-ray of skull Download Full Image

They believe they have a promising technique that could be used to chart the progression of multiple myeloma, a lethal disease that eventually impacts a patient’s bones. The method could help tailor therapies to protect bone better and also act as a way to monitor for possible disease progression or recurrence.

“Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that can cause painful and debilitating bone lesions,” said Gwyneth Gordon, an associate research scientist in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and co-lead author of the study. “We wanted to see if we could use isotope ratio analysis, a common technique in geochemistry, to detect the onset of disease progression.”

“At present, there is no good way to track changes in bone balance except retrospectively using X-ray methods,” said Ariel Anbar, a President’s Professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “By the time the X-rays show something, the damage has been done.”

“Right now, pain is usually the first indication that cancer is affecting the bones,” added Rafael Fonseca, chair of the Department of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic and a member of the research team. “If we could detect it earlier by an analysis of urine or blood in high-risk patients, it could significantly improve their care,” he added.

The research team – which includes Gordon, Melanie Channon and Anbar from ASU, as well as Jorge Monge (co-lead author), Qing Wu and Fonseca from Mayo Clinic – described the tests and their results in “Predicting multiple myeloma disease activity by analyzing natural calcium isotopic composition,” in an early online edition (July 9) of the Nature publication Leukemia.

The technique measures the naturally occurring calcium isotopes that the researchers believe can serve as an accurate, near-real-time detector of bone metabolism for multiple myeloma patients. Bone destruction in myeloma manifests itself in bone lesions, osteoporosis and fractures. The ASU-Mayo Clinic work builds on a previous NASA study by the ASU team. That research focused on healthy subjects participating in an experiment.

“This is the first demonstration that the technique has some ability to detect bone loss in patients with disease,” said Anbar, a biogeochemist at ASU.

With the method, bone loss is detected by carefully analyzing the isotopes of calcium that are naturally present in blood. Isotopes are atoms of an element that differ in their masses. Patients do not need to ingest any artificial tracers, and are not exposed to any radiation for the test. The only harm done with the new method, Anbar said, is a pinprick for a blood draw.

The technique makes use of a fact well-known to earth scientists but not normally used in biomedicine – different isotopes of a chemical element can react at slightly different rates. The earlier NASA study showed that when bones form, the lighter isotopes of calcium enter bone a little faster than the heavier isotopes. That difference, called isotope fractionation, is the key to the method.

In healthy, active humans, bone is in “balance,” meaning bone is forming at about the same rate as it dissolves (resorbs). But if bone loss is occurring, then the isotopic composition of blood becomes enriched in the lighter isotopes as bones resorb more quickly than they are formed.

The effect on calcium isotopes is very small, typically less than a 0.02 percent change in the isotope ratio. But even effects that small can be measured by using precise mass spectrometry methods available at ASU. With the new test, the ASU-Mayo Clinic researchers found that there was an association between how active the disease was and the change in the isotope ratios. In addition, the isotope ratios predicted disease activity better than, and independent from, standard clinical variables.

Anbar said that while the method has worked on a small set of patients, much still needs to be done to verify initial findings and improve the efficiency of analysis.

“If the method proves to be robust after more careful validation, it could provide earlier detection of bone involvement than presently possible, and also provide the possibility to monitor the effectiveness of drugs to combat bone loss.”

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications