Collaboration is key to future of health care workforce, panel says

September 22, 2022

Collaboration is the key to shaping the future health care workforce, said health leaders at a recent panel discussion.

That was the overwhelming consensus among experts and attendees alike at “The Future Health Workforce: Insights and Solutions” discussion. The event, hosted by Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions, took place at the ASU California Center, located in the historic Herald Examiner building in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Woman speaking into microphone behind a lectern on a stage on which two other people are seated behind a table. A sign behind them reads "ASU California Center." College of Health Solutions Dean Deborah Helitzer (left) introduces Dr. Donna Elliott and Dr. Michael Kanter at the panel discussion "The Future Health Workforce: Insights and Solutions" at the ASU California Center in Los Angeles on Sept. 16. Photo by Carl Jimenez/ASU Download Full Image

Moderated by College of Health Solutions Dean and Professor Deborah Helitzer, panelists Dr. Donna Elliott, vice dean and professor of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, and Dr. Michael Kanter, professor and chair of the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine, responded to the question of how colleges and universities can prepare students to meet the challenges presented by our health care system.

Both noted physicians and educators said future doctors and other health care providers must learn how to work with others in order to deliver better health outcomes.

High test scores won’t be enough

Elliott said high MCAT scores and grade point averages won’t be the most valuable assets for people applying to medical schools.

“As medical schools go about screening the large number of applicants for those who can succeed in their institutions and medicine in general, they are looking for students who have evidence of ability to function as a team,” Elliott said.

Kanter said that modern medicine offers health care providers the opportunity to consume large amounts of data about conditions and patients. But he said finding solutions to those concerns requires more than just being able to sift through raw data.

“Data by itself is useless, and I would argue that the information, by itself, is almost as useless,” Kanter said. “It’s really the implementation of that information that needs to happen. Students need to learn how to convert data to information and information into change. It involves leadership, thinking, how to work in teams and how to educate. I think those are general skills that will move that learning cycle along.”

Future doctors need a broad-based curriculum

Following the discussion, the health leaders took questions from the audience about what they have learned, what they are challenged by and how we must reenvision health education and the workforce to reduce disparities and prepare for a better future through collaboration, transformation and innovation. Helitzer then closed the discussion by asking what schools such as the College of Health Solutions at ASU could do to better prepare students for medical school.

Elliott said that of the traditional pre-med training that was in place when she went to medical school — subjects such as biology, chemistry, physics, calculus and English it is the language skills that were most useful.

She said that today’s medical students need a broader-based curriculum.

“It’s the breadth of education now,” Elliott said. “We need students who are thinkers, not memorizers. Students who can think and imagine and apply what they learn.The more opportunities they have to do that before we get them, as well as after we get them, is what’s most important.”

The complete recording of the live discussion is available on the College of Health Solutions' Youtube channel.

This panel on "The Future Health Workforce" was part of a series of events to mark the ASU expansion in California at the ASU California Center in downtown Los Angeles. The events are open to the public and designed to share ideas and explore collaborations on issues facing our communities.

Weldon B. Johnson

Communications Specialist, College of Health Solutions

Setting the course in electrical engineering

Coast Guard officer Mike Freeman advocated for, graduated from online delivery of accelerated program

September 19, 2022

​When he received his first bachelor’s degree in management from the United States Coast Guard Academy, Mike Freeman had every intention to become a businessman after his five years of Coast Guard service were completed. But all of that changed when Freeman reported to his first assignment.

“Working with aviators landing their helicopters on the tiny flight deck of the Coast Guard’s USCGC Confidence ship convinced me that aviation was the path for me,” he says. “Once accepted into flight school, I became a fanatic and learned as much about aviation and aerospace as possible.” Coast Guard helicopter with a person standing next to it. Download Full Image

With his newfound passion, Freeman didn’t wait to leave service to pursue his next goal and started his journey to earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. The field has many applications in aviation and aerospace technology, such as designing sensors and aircraft instrumentation. Because his military assignments had him moving around the country, Freeman chose the program’s online delivery method, which shares the same course path and ABET accreditation as the in-person offering.

Freeman also knew he wanted to earn an advanced degree and became interested in pursuing the accelerated master’s degree program, enabling him to complete both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years.

“I first heard of the accelerated degree program when I was applying for school in 2017 and knew that it would be a great option for me with my full-time career and family commitments,” he says.

In ASU’s accelerated master’s degree programs, students can use master’s degree courses to fulfill elective credits at the bachelor’s level, reducing the length of time it takes to fulfill the requirements for both degree programs.

However, the accelerated electrical engineering master’s degree program was only offered on campus when Freeman started at ASU. Yet, he was determined to complete it as an online student.

Freeman was persistent throughout his studies in advocating for an online delivery method of the accelerated program to benefit nontraditional students. He worked with the electrical engineering advising team to get an online delivery method of the accelerated program set up and became the first student to enroll once it was approved.

This summer, Freeman became the second student to graduate from the accelerated program’s online delivery method. (The first graduate, Trang Dunham, graduated in spring 2022.)

“Our success in online deployment of our undergraduate, master’s and accelerated degrees has greatly expanded our reach to students who would otherwise not have access to our programs,” says Stephen Phillips, director of the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering. “Graduates like Mike Freeman demonstrate what our highly motivated students can accomplish.”

The accelerated program’s online delivery method follows the same curriculum as its in-person counterpart, including the same rigorous expectations for students to gain hands-on engineering experience. Freeman’s favorite part of the program was the undergraduate senior capstone project.

“My capstone team had a fantastic mentor, David Ramirez, who at the time worked at General Dynamics Mission Systems. He helped us get a home-built radar set off the ground and running,” Freeman says. “It was really enjoyable figuring that challenge out.”

Portrait of ASU Online student Mike Freeman in his Coast Guard uniform.

Coast Guard MH-65E Dolphin Helicopter Instructor Pilot and Flight Examiner Mike Freeman. Photo courtesy of Mike Freeman

As an online student, Freeman says communication was key. He informed his instructors early on that his schedule as an active duty service member could be unpredictable at times, and with tasks like hurricane response deployments, he might need flexible deadlines to complete his assignments.

“It’s gotten much easier to connect with professors and other students during my time at ASU, and that will hopefully continue to improve,” Freeman says.

He credits a large part of his success in the program to School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering academic advising staff members Robert Monahan and Lynn Pratte.

Monahan sought authorization of the online delivery method for the accelerated electrical engineering master’s program and Pratte served as Freeman’s academic advisor for the graduate portion of the program. Freeman praises Pratte as being highly invested in her students’ success.

“Working with Mike has been awesome,” Pratte says. “He advocated for himself and other students who are interested in this program. Actions like his are what make ASU No. 1 in innovation.”

Freeman took two courses in electronic materials and quantum mechanics with Michael Goryll, an associate professor of electrical engineering who remembers Freeman as a standout student.

Goryll helped Freeman prepare for his comprehensive exam, a requirement to receive his master’s degree, and was so impressed with Freeman’s achievements that he nominated him to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Eta Kappa Nu honor society.

“My experience working with Mike has been great,” Goryll says. “While the quantum mechanics course is very mathematical, Mike was very enthusiastic about it and never lost his motivation.”

Now a lieutenant commander, Freeman works as a helicopter flight examiner and instructor pilot at the Coast Guard’s Air Station Houston in Texas.

He hopes to use his new degree to seek further technical leadership roles in the Coast Guard. After his military service is up, Freeman will pursue work in technical roles in the aerospace industry.

“I’m a total space nerd and look forward to advancing humanity’s presence in space,” he says.

TJ Triolo

Communications Specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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A bold cure for the irrelevant university?

September 19, 2022

Beyond the Academy's 'Guidebook for the Engaged University' highlights how universities can help solve defining problems of our age

Today's students increasingly demand engaged scholarship — curricula and research opportunities directly relevant to addressing climate change, misinformation, widespread social unrest and other sustainability, environmental and social challenges. But they often find the traditional university model ill-equipped to deliver that worldly engagement.

This lack of engagement by academia is a traditional narrative Arizona State University has dramatically upended in serving the nation, state and community, as evidenced in its charter, mission and vision of a New American University, and most recently, as the most innovative university in the nation eight years in a row.

Now, ASU professors Leah Gerber and Nancy Grimm have taken some of the best lessons learned to help share their knowledge by contributing to a new guidebook for academia.

They’ve contributed to a new book — "The Guidebook for the Engaged University" — that provides a comprehensive roadmap for administrators, faculty and students who want to make their institutions of higher education systematically more welcoming to engaged research — and avoid accusations of ivory-tower irrelevance.

Grimm and Gerber are part of an an international network of hundreds of researchers working to make universities more supportive of engaged scholarship with real-world impact. Written and published by Beyond the Academy, the new guidebook highlights university best practices to foster and support engaged scholarship — aligning their structures, incentives and outcomes with solving the defining problems of our generation.

"Business-as-usual approaches to academic research and teaching aren't enough to solve these challenges," says Bonnie Keeler, director of Beyond the Academy and faculty member at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

"We hope the guidebook encourages others to advocate for reforms in their own institutions and serves as a reminder that change is not only possible, but happening at universities all across the globe."

Tackling the greatest challenges

One of the greatest challenges ASU has undertaken for the benefit of the community it serves is the future health and sustainability of our planet. After launching the very first School of Sustainability a decade ago, ASU’s commitment to sustainability has evolved to now become the Rob and Melani and Walton Center for Planetary Health, which treats the Earth in a new emergency health-care model to help cure the effects of climate change.

Gerber is enthusiastic about what the guidebook’s publication could catalyze, particularly to meet the global challenge of biodiversity in an age of human-caused climate change:

"There is nothing more inspiring than conducting cutting-edge research with real-world applications. At the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, we not only produce actionable science, we share it with organizations outside academia who are making a difference both on the ground and in the real world,” she said.

“We look forward to a broad dissemination of the guidebook to encourage other institutions, particularly STEM departments, to value actionable science in equal measure with conventional data-driven science. This is not just about changing institutional norms in science production; it is about increasing applicable knowledge that will help ensure our planet’s future."

Gerber’s students are also excited about the guidebook.

"In being a part of an interdisciplinary program like Biology and Society at ASU, I know firsthand that the need for resources like this is there,” said graduate student Olivia Davis. “Our science cannot exist in a vacuum — it impacts so many people in so many different fields. Having a resource like this guidebook is a great starting point for reform that aligns with today's reality."

The guidebook is also aligned with ASU's Earth Systems Science for the Anthropocene (ESSA) Graduate Scholars Network, directed by Grimm and Professor Abigail York.

"This guidebook touches on many elements that are needed to transform academia to meet the challenges that humanity faces in this age of rapid change that we call the Anthropocene,” Grimm said.

The network has been supported by ASU President Michael Crow’s office since 2020 and is affiliated with ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory.

“At ASU, our ESSA scholars network emphasizes team science, co-production and a solutions focus; centering justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in our work and in our community; and openness to diverse ways of knowing — inclusive of non-academic perspectives that we can gain from engagement outside the academy," Grimm said.

This past summer, Grimm and colleagues Michelle Hale, Michele Clark and Liliana Caughman mentored students who worked on the Rio ReImagined project, which helps realize community visions for the future of the Salt River and Gila River watershed. There, a team of graduate students across multiple disciplines are working together in their cohort to co-design solutions-oriented research focused on the Rio Reimagined project.

The ESSA initiative supports graduate students interested in developing a collaborative research and action project that explores several interconnected aspects of community development and ecological restoration on the Rio Salado (Salt River) and Gila River watershed. Their aims are to work with Indigenous and urban communities living along the river to co-create a collaborative, culturally affirming and solutions-oriented project that centers diverse knowledge systems to respond to community needs.

A first of its kind, 3 years in the making 

The guidebook is the first blueprint of its kind to building “the engaged university,” an institution that systematically supports engaged scholarship and service. To write it, members of the Beyond the Academy network spent the last three years exploring how universities are already reforming their systems and structures in ways that promote action-oriented research and practices that respond to society's needs. Academic leaders from across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom shared ideas, research, resources and examples.

Chapters of the guidebook cover solutions for some of the major challenges to engaged scholarship at scale, from the way research impact is measured to promotion and tenure practices, graduate training, and recruitment and retention of engaged scholars.

The guidebook also showcases dozens of examples from universities around the world of how these solutions have been put into practice. For instance, The Office of Public Engagement at the University of Minnesota provides grants for academic departments that wish to develop or strengthen community engagement initiatives, offers training to promotion and tenure committee members about standards for high quality, community-engaged scholarship, and supports graduate students in developing projects with neighborhood organizations. 

The next step: Broader institutionalization of engaged scholarship

Keeler says the next phase of academic reforms must build on these experiments and best practices toward broader institutionalization of engaged scholarship in academia.

“Universities today risk global irrelevance unless they adopt an 'engaged university' approach as we’ve outlined — one that systematically supports and encourages scholar and staff engagement with society,” she said. 

“Shifting to that model will require deep transformation in universities. They must better align their structures, incentives and outcomes to acknowledge, value and incentivize scholarly and staff engagement with these issues. But examples of positive steps exist in nearly every institution. We must scale and share these steps as quickly and widely as possible.”  

The entire guidebook is available for free on the Beyond the Academy website.

Joe Caspermeyer

Manager (natural sciences) , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


Helping maltreated children in foster care

Psychology graduate student named NRSA Fellow to study child and parent separation

September 19, 2022

Each year, approximately 250,000 children enter the foster care system, and at any given time, upwards of 400,000 children are in the system. Additionally, according to the Arizona Department of Child Safety, there are nearly five children in care for every licensed foster family. 

A graduate in Arizona State University's clinical psychology training program hopes to find new ways to help those children and families at the most pivotal time. Portrait of ASU doctoral student Austin Blake. Austin Blake, a doctoral student in the ASU Department of Psychology, was recently named a National Research Service Award Fellow by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for her project "Estimating the Impact of Out-of-Home Placement on Health Risk Behavior in Adolescents Exposed to Maltreatment: An Advanced Causal Inference Approach." Photo by Robert Ewing Download Full Image

Austin Blake, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology, was recently named a National Research Service Award Fellow by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for her project "Estimating the Impact of Out-of-Home Placement on Health Risk Behavior in Adolescents Exposed to Maltreatment: An Advanced Causal Inference Approach."

The award provides funding for her research and allows Blake to receive additional training necessary for her research career, including in the areas of child welfare research and advanced statistical methods.

“I study the link between parent and child separation and health risk behaviors. One context in which separation occurs frequently is through maltreatment — both abuse and neglect,” Blake said. “Prior to coming to ASU, I studied kids who were adopted from foster care, and oftentimes they entered foster care because of parental addiction and other things like that. Once coming here, I became really interested in just how substance use and other health risk behaviors develop across adolescence and adulthood.”

Blake wants to find out if removing the child from the home increases or decreases the risk for later adverse health risks behaviors. 

“The time period when a child is removed from the home and their guardians is a crucial window of time. I believe that future interventions should target that time period in order to reduce the long-term impacts of the experience,” Blake said. 

Using a public data set of maltreated children, Blake will be using an advanced causal inference statistical method to determine more specific differences between children who are removed from the home versus those that remain. 

“We're looking at what mechanisms might underlie the effect of out-of-home placement on later health risk behavior. Through this research, we can identify factors that we can target for that population. For instance, we might want to focus on adolescents’ increases in depression or anxiety, or perhaps their relationships with parents. Being able to identify causes at this stage can prevent those increases in health risk behavior while in foster care,” Blake said. 

What makes Blake’s research different from what has been done before is that she is using advanced statistical methods to account for confounding variables so that she can most accurately estimate the effect of out-of-home placement on health risk behaviors. In populations like this, it is impossible and unethical to run randomized research on placing children in foster care, so being able to identify potential areas for intervention can be difficult.

Additionally, rather than looking at younger children, her research is focusing on adolescents. The adolescent period between ages 13–18 is a turning point that redirects developmental trajectories of health risk behavior, such as initiating substance use and sexual behavior. Blake wanted to focus on this age group as well because when compared with younger children, teenagers placed in foster homes experience greater placement instability and greater difficulty adjusting to new caregivers or guardians. 

Blake’s two primary co-sponsors at ASU are Regents Professors Laurie Chassin and David MacKinnon, considered leaders in the fields of health risk behaviors and statistical mediation, respectively. Their mentorship has helped shape how Blake looks at statistical data and applies it to real-life situations, such as improving the foster care system. 

“Throughout my academic career, I've been working with Dr. Chassin on projects that broadly look at how substance use develops and the etiology where it comes from. Specifically, I've been looking at how parent-child separation may impact those trajectories,” Blake said. “This is such important research because there are really far-reaching impacts, such as the intergenerational risk for substance use.”

Data are from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Wellbeing I (NSCAW-I), a large longitudinal, national probability sample of 6,228 children (ages 0–14 at baseline) who were investigated for child maltreatment between October 1999 and December 2000.

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology


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Alzheimer's conference at ASU to highlight advances in fight against disease

September 16, 2022

Event brings together some of the nation’s top scientists, physicians

The Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium Conference, which brings together some of the nation’s top scientists and physicians to discuss advances in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, will be held Sept. 22 at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus.

The one-day conference will include more than 100 interactive scientific presentations, 10 Q&A sessions with neurological research leaders and a keynote address by Sterling Johnson, the associate director for the Wisconsin Alzheimer Disease Research Center and the principal investigator for one of the world’s largest and longest-running studies of individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for researchers to come together, but it’s also an amazing opportunity for students to come and rub elbows at a one-on-one level,” said David Coon, the director of ASU’s Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging.

ASU News talked to Coon and ASU University Professor Eric Reiman, who is also the executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and director of the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium, about the conference and the latest advances in Alzheimer’s research.

Editor's note: The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: What advances in Alzheimer’s research will be talked about at this conference?

Reiman: One of the areas that there’s tremendous excitement about is the emerging role of potentially blood-based biomarkers. We now have brain imaging techniques and cerebral spinal fluid biomarker measurements that require you to put a needle in somebody’s back, and not a lot of people volunteer to do that. So, with the emerging development of potentially affordable, repeatable and widely accessible blood tests, you can imagine the chance to galvanize research and support drug development.

One of the real challenges to Alzheimer’s research has been the inclusion of individuals from underrepresented and underserved minority groups, an area that David has spent an awful lot of time thinking about. (Having blood tests) would help us know how these biological measurements or treatments that were investigated behave in these underrepresented groups.

Q: Would these blood tests be as simple as scheduling an appointment at your doctor’s office?

Reiman: We’re not really where we need to be yet in this space, but it has the potential to transform research, treatment development and clinical care.

I’ll give you an example in the clinical care space. There was a treatment that was approved by the FDA last year called aducanumab, which can help reduce amyloid beta plaque in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. But you would need an amyloid PET scan to know who has plaque in the brain, and the test would be expensive and it’s not going to be feasible to do an expensive PET scan every two years. So instead of doing a $5,000 PET scan, what if you could do a $75 blood test to either reduce or eliminate the need for those PET scans? It could be helpful in reaching out to people who aren’t close to specialty centers and imaging centers.

Q: How close are we to those blood tests becoming a reality?

Reiman: These blood tests look very promising, but there’s more work that needs to be done. But I think they could be available in the next year or two.

Q: David, Eric mentioned underserved communities. What is known about the preponderance of Alzheimer’s in these communities?

Coon: There may be risk factors that increase the proportion of folks that are impacted in these communities. We really have to continue to establish ongoing relationships with these communities. I think there’s some myth that everything has to be hand-in-hand. The bottom line is there are a growing number of folks from underserved communities, from minority communities, that do engage in social media and utilize smartphones to help them stay connected, not only to providers but also to what’s happening in the research world. So, how do we provide ongoing education? How do we provide opportunities to help serve these families that are already impacted by Alzheimer’s disease?

Q: What are those risk factors you mentioned?

Coon: Diet, sleep issues, exercise issues, access to health care across their lifespan.

Reiman: We believe that genetic factors account for about 70% of a person’s risk in developing Alzheimer’s disease, leaving 30% which you could potentially intervene with to promote cognitive health and slow or delay the onset of symptoms. Also, we see a number of factors that promote a healthy heart that have been suggested to promote a healthy brain, like a heart-healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet.

In the meantime, we are waiting to see what happens with some disease-modifying treatments. We’ve seen so much progress on Alzheimer’s research, understanding risk factors … but the glaring exception to this progress has been finding effective treatments. Once we have treatments that work, we’ll be able to know what biological changes are associated with the clinical benefit, further inform the development of treatments and speed up the evaluation of prevention therapies.

We’ll see what happens in the next year, but we have a 50-50 chance that these treatments (being currently tested) will demonstrate a benefit in the next few months in cognitively impaired individuals. And if they do, we’ll have a great chance in supporting and finding the approval of prevention therapies potentially in the next five years. There’s no guarantee, but we’ll know soon.

Q: That’s incredible news.

Reiman: We’ve just completed the world’s first trial of an investigational drug to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. We did a five-to-eight-year trial for which we were disappointed that we did not see a statistically significant benefit. But what this study did was show that prevention trials were possible, and it led to ways to accelerate the evaluation and approval of prevention therapy.

We have other prevention trials going on right now. And if those treatments work in the next few months, we’ll have an outstanding chance to find and support the ... prevention of clinical onset of Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. So there’s a lot of work happening in this space.

Top photo courtesy iStock

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News

ASU partners with Purdue to co-host inaugural Cold Case Symposium

September 15, 2022

For years, America's consumption of true crime documentaries, books, podcasts, movies and TV shows has steadily grown, with the category easily becoming one of the most popular among all genres. 

A new event co-hosted by Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and the Purdue University College of Agriculture’s Department of Entomology seeks to go beyond entertainment and bring awareness to the cold case crisis in the United States. Yellow police caution tape that reads "Crime scene do not cross." Download Full Image

With over 200,000 unsolved murder and missing persons cases in the U.S., increased visibility and advocacy is more important than ever, said Lauren Weidner, assistant professor in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences.

“​​I am excited to share this information not only with the ASU and local community but also on a national scale, thanks to our collaboration with Purdue University,” Weidner said. “Through the symposium, we hope to shed light on the cold case crisis in the U.S. while also sharing how we can all be advocates for this important cause.”

The inaugural Cold Case Symposium is open to community members, students, faculty and staff, and will be hosted from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23, at ASU’s West campus and online via Zoom in recognition of National Forensic Science Week. The event will feature three speakers who will share their personal experiences working with cold cases, including:

  • Kelsi Germanadvocate and sister of Liberty German, who will speak about the 2017 unsolved double murder of Abigail Williams and Liberty German and the experiences and challenges her family faced in their pursuit of justice.
  • David Robinson II, advocate and father of missing geologist Daniel Robinson, who will speak about his son’s case, the evidence recovered and his continued search to locate his son.
  • Sarah Turney, advocate and host of the true crime podcast "Voices for Justice," who will speak about the power of social media and her experience with propelling missing persons cases into the spotlight.

Attendees of the symposium will also learn about cold case resources and hear about student work being conducted at New College and Purdue University. Last spring, New College launched FOR 496 - Forensic Science Service Learning, a new course created by Weidner in collaboration with Krystal Hans, an assistant professor of forensic entomology at Purdue University. In the course, students use their knowledge of forensic science to work on various service learning opportunities that include working on cold cases, lesson planning and activity design with high school educators and educating the general public.

“This year, we’ll be focusing on a lot of Arizona cases, particularly ones in the Phoenix area, with the hope that families that are local can attend in person to better network with people who have shared experiences and to understand the resources that are available to them,” Hans said. “We will have counselors on site as well, as we realize the nature of this topic and its accompanying material is triggering. We want to support families and our participants as much as we can.”

Registration for the event is open to ASU students, faculty, staff and community members. Learn more or register at

Emily Balli

Manager of marketing and communications, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

Innovation in health care focus of Edson College California Center launch event

September 15, 2022

On Aug. 25, Arizona State University's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation held a launch event at the ASU California Center.

"Innovation in Health Care: Charting the Future" featured a panel of experts discussing innovative solutions and directions for tackling some of our most pressing health care workforce needs.  Speakers sit on a stage in the ASU California Center looking out at an audience. Signage for ASU's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation can be seen in the background. Panelists share ideas for tackling health care workforce needs at the ASU California Center last month. Download Full Image

Edson College Dean Judith Karshmer and members of the college’s executive leadership team were joined by trusted industry leaders with decades of health care experience. 

The distinguished participants included:

  • Keynote speaker Dan Weberg, innovation executive with experience leading change in large, top five health systems and three-time ASU alumnus.

  • Panelist Diane Drexler, vice president of patient care and system chief nursing officer for Community Memorial Health System in Ventura, California, and ASU alumna.

  • Panelist Anita Girard, chief nursing officer and vice president of nursing at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and president of the American Nurses Association of California.

“The robust discussion at this event included an assessment about how we can move from talking about workforce issues to putting actionable and impactful practices into motion,” Karshmer said. “It was the start of what will be an ongoing conversation on diverse topics in areas critical to health care professionals, educators and students.”

The panel discussion can be viewed in its entirety here.

Edson College is developing a comprehensive slate of programming and events at the California Center, including programs and workshops on topics around wellness, human trafficking, innovation in healthy and resilient aging, health care workforce development, and clinical research management and regulatory science.

“In addition to alumni and students who call California home, we also have a number of partnerships and collaborative opportunities with area health care educators and providers,” Karshmer said. “Having this physical presence in the Los Angeles area allows us to broaden our reach and deliver dynamic and impactful programming around in-demand health care topics.”

Arizona State University’s California Center is located in the historic Herald Examiner building in downtown Los Angeles. Learn more about upcoming events here.

Written by Lisa McQuerrey, director, Strategic Marketing and Communications, Edson College

ASU philosophy camp teaches local high school students how to have disagreements

September 13, 2022

Over the summer, the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University hosted its inaugural philosophy summer camp for high school students.

The camp came together as a combined effort between philosophy graduate students and philosophy faculty to get young students interested in philosophy and to understand what it entails.  PhD candidate Angela Barnes sits among a circle of high school students. Philosophy PhD candidate Angela Barnes guides a discussion with high school students at an ASU philosophy summer camp. Photo by Rachel Bunning/ASU Download Full Image

Philosophy Professor Joan McGregor was happy to bring the students onto campus to give them the opportunity to not only learn about philosophy, but to see themselves as university students as well.

“The experience for them can be transformative,” McGregor said. “High school students are natural philosophers, asking the big questions.”

PhD candidate in philosophy Angela Barnes initiated the idea based off of a similar project she was involved with when she was a student at Ohio State University.

“In high school especially, we are starting to really wrestle with philosophical questions, about ourselves and our identities, our systems of beliefs and morals, and the value and purpose of living well,” Barnes said. “I am interested in building homes for curious minds, and this summer camp was one way that I could share that vision with our community here in the Valley.”

Barnes worked with fellow graduate students Aubrial Harrington and Triston Hanna to create a schedule and agenda for the camp. They settled on the topic of "disagreement" as the theme for the camp. 

“We are constantly bombarded with the idea that we should hate people that have different beliefs than us, particularly different political beliefs,” Barnes said. “The polarization of ideas and the news outlets covering them make it seem as though you just have to pick a side — that critically engaging with the other side is a waste of time. My other instructors and I disagree.”

In helping students engage in disagreement, Barnes says students can examine and learn from people who think differently than them. The benefits of doing so are that students can come closer to knowing the truth by knowing all sides of an argument, and they don’t have to engage with the world as if half the population is their enemy. 

The high school students showed up to the camp with many questions and a curiosity to learn. Over the week, they learned how to listen carefully, break down arguments and be charitable. 

“The opportunity to teach these young people how we can have actual influence on our day-to-day lives using philosophy has multiple good effects,” Barnes said. “Watching philosophy at work in young minds, opening them up to new possibilities, gave me so much satisfaction. That is the very thing that drove me to pursue a PhD in philosophy.”

PhD candidate Aubrial Harrington and Angela Barnes lead a discussion with the campers.

Philosophy PhD candidates Aubrial Harrington (right) and Angela Barnes presenting to the campers. Photo by Rachel Bunning/ASU

Owen Fisk, a high school sophomore student who participated in the camp, said he felt he was able to use what he learned over the summer in a class that did a Socratic seminar this fall. 

“One thing that impacted me the most was definitely the argument structures, specifically how to not include logical fallacies in my arguments and how to listen to other arguments,” he said.

Another high school student, a junior named Adelina Grotenhuis, said she enjoyed learning the principles of philosophy and getting to meet other kids her age who shared her interest in philosophy.

“I love the sense of community,” she said. “I just wish more people knew about this.”

Next year’s camp is already in discussion. The focus of the camp is still an ongoing topic and the students and faculty are working on securing more funding to increase access to the program. 

“We hope to be able to provide more scholarships this year so that there are no barriers to curious minds that would want to come participate in this program, see ASU's campus and start to get a feel for what it might be like to come study at a university,” Barnes said.

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

ASU blockchain research elevates the health care experience

Research collaboration with JennyCo aims to put users in control of their health data

September 12, 2022

In an always-evolving digital age, it is crucial to find ways to secure user data and protect online privacy.

Research Professor Dragan Boscovic is exploring how to do so as the director of the ASU Blockchain Research Lab in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Graphic illustration of health care data, represented by various digital icons. A human hand reaches toward one of the icons to select it. Download Full Image

“Blockchain has three components — scalability, security and decentralization — and our goal is to find a proper balance between them for the given application,” says Boscovic, a faculty member in the computer science and engineering program in the Fulton Schools.

These tenets are driving one of the ASU Blockchain Research Lab’s newest research endeavors: using the blockchain to help secure and protect medical information through a novel app that has the potential to put patients in control of their health data. ​​By collecting information on the blockchain, the app will help users around the world store their health records, make decisions about how the data can be used and receive personalized health recommendations.

“To be taken seriously in this industry, you need to increase the throughput on a specific network so it can handle hundreds of transactions per second,” Boscovic says. “To put it into perspective, Visa is handling 65,000 transactions per second, so our initial objective for research was to get into the thousands.”

Industry interest in collaborating with the ASU Blockchain Research Lab grew after its work with Dash, a digital currency for payments and e-commerce. That success led to collaborations with several companies, including IntelEarly WarningKudelski SecurityBDSRPThreshold NetworkConstellation NetworkHelium Network. The work explores a wide variety of blockchain applications, such as identity management, supply chain, inventory management and a concept called zero-knowledge proof, or how to uniquely identify a person without disclosing any personal information.

“The great thing about our work is that there is no one topic; everything we do identifies specific problems that our industry partners face and how to optimize the industrial workflow, which can be solved through decentralization,” Boscovic says.

In 2019, the lab began exploring how to translate blockchain research into health care. Manish Vishnoi, a Fulton Schools alumnus and former graduate student researcher for the Blockchain Research Lab, was focusing his master’s degree thesis on how people can maintain ownership of their medical data and only share it on a need-to-know basis with doctors, pharmacies and insurance providers. The lab took this research to the NuCypher + CoinList spring hackathon, winning the Community Choice Award.

Two years later, CEO Ben Jorgensen of Constellation Network — a company that develops scalable solutions for processing and transferring large data sets — gave an industry presentation to Boscovic’s student club, Blockchain at ASU. That gathering connected members of the lab with the network’s partner, JennyCo, a new company aiming to elevate the health care experience in the same way.

JennyCo seeks to enable consumers, large companies and brands to seamlessly share and access user data through a novel HIPAA-compliant blockchain service exchange managed by a decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO.

According to JennyCo Founder and CEO Dr. Michael Nova, “Users of our app will be able to contribute their commerce, electronic health records, social, internet of things, device and any other health data, and will receive personal AI-generated recommendations along with compensation.”

The goal of the app is to utilize blockchain technology to put users in control of their own health care data, which is a first-of-its-kind opportunity. In addition to data ownership, users who elect to store information on the app will have access to valuable health insights, AI-generated personalized recommendations for lifestyle changes and suggested wellness products, a community of other users to engage with and the opportunity to receive rewards through cryptocurrency tokens if they choose for their data to be used in research and product studies (users may also decline).

“Blockchain technology has the potential to transform health data, placing the patient at the center of the health care ecosystem and increasing security, privacy and interoperability,” Nova says. “In our collaboration on this project, Dr. Boscovic and his students have shown a deep understanding of the use cases we’ve presented and have smartly suggested system flows and technologies which will ultimately further our cause.”

Vishnoi, whose master’s degree thesis in part led to this collaboration, will continue his work with Boscovic and the ASU Blockchain Research Lab in his new role as a member of the JennyCo team, serving as its chief technology officer.

“JennyCo’s mission was really similar to the core principle of my thesis, so it felt like a natural fit,” he says. “If it’s your data, you should be the one in charge of it. You should know where it is being shared or who it is being shared with, and you should be the one who is rewarded for its use.”

Vishnoi says there is still work to do to get the app functioning and ready for next steps since blockchain is a very new technology.

“It requires a lot of research and planning, which is the phase we are in now with the Blockchain Research Lab,” Vishnoi says. “Currently, we’re brainstorming ideas for how we would like to implement blockchain and working through different solutions with Dr. Boscovic, and the students involved are creating proofs of concept. Health care data is very sensitive, so we’re committed to making sure what we implement is highly secure.”

In addition to the opportunities available to students in the lab, this collaboration is also funding the JennyCo Blockchain Scholarship Program to provide support for undergraduate and graduate students in the Fulton Schools, enabling them to gain exposure to blockchain technology.

ASU students can also look forward to a new online course focused on the blockchain data market to complement the existing Fulton Schools master’s degree program in computer science, in addition to guest lecture appearances by JennyCo executives.

Annelise Krafft

Communications Specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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Mayo Clinic medical students learn about food as medicine from College of Health Solutions experts

September 6, 2022

Editor’s note: This story is featured in the 2022 year in review.

A group of second-year Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine students felt like they were on the set of a cooking competition TV show on a recent August morning.

In reality, the nine students were in the kitchen at the College of Health Solutions on the Downtown Phoenix campus of Arizona State University. And while they spent five days in that kitchen chopping vegetables, sautéing meats and sampling exotic spices, they weren’t competing for cash, prizes or a spot on some Food Network show.

They were learning valuable nutrition and cooking skills that they hope to be able to pass on to patients when they’re practicing medicine.

In addition to spending time in the instructional kitchen under the direction of Health Solutions chef and kitchen coordinator Kent Moody, they attended lectures on nutrition presented by faculty from both ASU and Mayo Clinic. College of Health Solutions faculty taught on food as therapy (Professor Carol Johnston), the gut microbiome (Associate Professor Corrie Whisner), anti-inflammatory diets (Professor Dorothy Sears) and the pitfalls of processed foods (Clinical Professor Christy Alexon). Mayo Clinic faculty member Dr. Heather Fields (internal medicine) taught a session on plant-based diets.

“It’s a different perspective than we normally hear,” student Connor Lentz said. “We don’t have nutritionists come speak to us. They bring a different set of knowledge, different experiences.”

“A lot of medical professionals don’t understand nutrition all that well. We don’t get much of it in the classroom.”

The idea of providing future physicians with that perspective is what was behind this selective course when it was introduced in 2019. A selective is a one- to two-week block of time that enables the Mayo Clinic medical students to steer their education toward their specific interests. Johnston, professor of nutrition and an associate dean for faculty success at the College of Health Solutions, explained the selective came about through a Flinn Foundation grant.

Johnston said the grant included the charge of developing programs for medical students and doctors. Among the results are a one-year master’s degree program in medical nutrition (offered exclusively online) for health care professionals or students who plan to pursue a career in a medical profession.

“The master’s degree is not so much the science of nutrition — although everything is based on scientific evidence — but how you can apply it and provide nutrition information to patients,” Johnston said.

A graduate certificate in medical nutrition is in the development stage as well, with the goal of having it up and running in fall 2024.

The “Food as Medicine” selective is another component of that grant. It’s a short version of some of the things the students would learn in the longer medical nutrition degree program.

“Medical doctors, through the Flinn Foundation, said they wanted to support this because they didn’t know much about nutrition, and when patients would ask about it, they didn’t know how to answer,” Johnston said.

This course gives future doctors some new knowledge and practical tools in nutrition. 

Mira Shoukry, another of the medical students taking part in the program, said that kind of nutritional background was exactly what she was looking for.

“A lot of times for patients with chronic diseases, we might say something like, 'You need to eat a high-fiber diet,' or 'Cut carbs,' but we really don’t know how to explain in reasonable terms how to do that,” Shoukry said. “This selective helps us do that.”

Jess Qu, who was paired up with Shoukry to make an Indian-inspired meal that included roasted curried cauliflower, vegetable khichdi and pickled mangos, said she had been looking forward to this selective since she heard about it while interviewing for medical school.

Qu plans to focus on lifestyle medicine, and learning how to recommend healthy foods would be beneficial.

“(Lifestyle medicine) is a lot about using food to prevent and manage chronic diseases,” Qu said. “I think it’s important for future providers to learn how to cook and be able to explain things to our patients as well. It’s especially important to be able to explain things in ways that are actually reasonable to incorporate into their lifestyles.”

The week in the kitchen was also enjoyable, Qu said.

“I think it’s cool for us to learn different recipes and expand our arsenal of what we can cook,” she said. “I feel like I’m on a cooking competition show.”

Shoukry added that beyond the potential benefit for future patients of the week’s worth of lectures and demonstrations, there was a more immediate bonus: learning to cook healthy and tasty meals for themselves.

“At the end of the day, we’re also students with poor diets,” Shoukry said.

Top photo: Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine students (from right) Ramiro Lopez, James Kim, Demian Herrera and Jaxson Jeffery learned about nutrition during the "Food as Medicine" selective at ASU's College of Health Solutions. Photo by Weldon B. Johnson/ASU

Weldon B. Johnson

Communications Specialist , College of Health Solutions