UW News

February 14, 2002

Magnuson Scholars

Claire Dietz
HS News & Community Relations

Six graduate students, one from each health sciences school, are working on projects as Magnuson Scholars for the 2001-2002 academic year. Each of the students receives approximately $20,000 to support graduate studies and research.

The late Senator Warren G. Magnuson, in whose name the program was established, was committed to improving the nation’s health through biomedical research and was instrumental in establishing the National Institutes of Health, Medicare and Medicaid during his long career in the senate.

The Magnuson Scholars are selected on the basis of their academic performance and their potential contributions to research in the health sciences.

The scholars program is part of the Warren G. Magnuson Institute for Biomedical Research and Health Professional training, established in 1991 in honor of the late senator. Support for the Institute comes from two grants totaling nearly $5 million from the U.S. Department of Education, matching funds of $500,000 from the State of Washington, and more than $569,000 in donated funds.

The income from the endowment is used for research about diabetes and other diseases, to support students in graduate or postgraduate health professions training programs, and to fund the Warren and Jermaine Magnuson Chair in Medicine for Neurosciences, held by Dr. Bruce Ransom, chair of the Department of Neurology.

This year’s Magnuson Scholars:

Benjamin Barreras

School of Medicine

At the UW as an undergraduate, Barreras switched from a pre-engineering program to pre-med because he liked working with people. He grew up in Vancouver, Wash., and is fluent in Spanish. He would eventually like to work in an area with a large Hispanic population and also pursue interests in international medicine.

As a medical student, he has been involved in summer undergraduate programs, tutored anatomy, and is a student member of the Admissions Committee. He participated in a medical mission to Ghana last summer.

He is working with Dr. Jerry Palmer, professor of medicine and director of the Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center, on a project to study how T cells function in pregnant women with type 1 diabetes.

Kristin Marciante

School of Pharmacy

Marciante, a Ph.D. candidate in the Pharmaceutical Outcomes Program, has a primary interest in evaluating the impact of treatment and screening programs on the outcomes of diabetes.

She is a graduate of Emory University in Atlanta, where she earned a B.S. in biology and an M.P.H. in epidemiology. Before coming to Seattle and entering the Ph.D. program, she spent three years working as a pharmaceutical statistician analyzing clinical trial data to determine the efficacy and safety of mental health compounds.

Her dissertation research involves developing a computer model to predict the long-term, population-based clinical and economic outcomes of diabetic retinopathy, which causes a gradual loss of sight. She is working to refine a Global Diabetes Model used by the Kaiser Permanente Northwest Center for Health Research.

Cecilia Morgan

School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Morgan earned a B.S. degree in biology from the University of Virginia and then worked in the Washington, D.C. area at the Naval Medical Research Institute (NMRI), where she ultimately led a team that developed rapid immuno-assays designed to detect a variety of infectious and toxic agents.

While at NMRI, her interest in public health grew. Attending classes at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health fueled her interests in improving public health through scientific research. In the fall of 1998, she came to the UW as a full-time graduate student in pathobiology.

She is now conducting research on the immune response against the agent of syphilis, hoping to find answers that might lead to a vaccine.

Rachel Robinson

School of Social Work

Robinson grew up in Cleveland and earned a B.S. degree in psychology from Ohio Wesleyan University. After working for two years in the Community Development block Grant Program in Cleveland Heights, she returned to school to earn her master’s degree in social work at Smith College School of Social Work.

A postgraduate fellowship at Stanford University’s Children’s Hospital, working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, gave her extensive training in health-care social work and became the foundation for her current work. Now pursuing a doctoral degree in social work, she continues to work in a hospital setting, providing on-call service for the Women and Children’s Social Work team at UW Medical Center.

Her dissertation research focuses on transcultural issues that affect the health of Somali refugee women who obtain childbirth-related services from health care providers in the United States.

Pamela Talley

School of Nursing

Talley, originally from Washington state, is now finishing Ph.D. studies in nursing, living in Rapid City, South Dakota, and planning to become an assistant professor at South Dakota State University, teaching in the graduate program.

For her dissertation research, she has worked extensively with women on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, one of the most economically depressed areas of the nation. Her dissertation title is “Domestic Violence and Stress in Pregnancy: Neuroendocrine Parameters and Length of Gestation.” She designed her doctoral studies at the UW to provide a broad exposure to different methods, including clinical outcomes, feminist methodology and physiologic measures.

She is particularly interested in asking questions about complex issues related to racism and health, especially the effects of racism on the health of indigenous Americans.

Ozlem Yilmaz

School of Dentistry

Yilmaz was born in Istanbul and earned her dentistry degree from Istanbul University Dental School. After graduating, she worked in family, hospital and rural clinics and participated in community dental education in Turkey.

She moved to Seattle in 1996 and entered the doctoral program in oral biology at the UW. Her research interest is in understanding the molecular processes related to periodontal diseases to help advance clinical treatment and prevention. She has discovered a key means by which the bacteria that cause periodontal disease, Prophyromonas gingivalis, can attach to host cells and initiate the destructive process. Agents designed to inhibit the attachment step could prevent bacterial survival, and thus eliminate or reduce the severity of the disease. Her work was conducted in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Lamont, professor of oral biology.

She would like to pursue a career as an academic scientist and professor, and has also recently received a National Institutes of Health mentored clinical scientist development award to support her transition to independent research.