UW News

April 20, 2006

Magnuson Scholars at work

Six graduate students, one from each health sciences school, have been named as Magnuson Scholars for the 2006-2007 academic year. Each of the students will receive approximately $25,000 to support graduate studies and research. The newly named scholars are Derek Fletcher from the School of Medicine, Chong-suk Han from the School of Social Work, Rebecca Hubbard from the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Elizabeth James from the School of Pharmacy, Gulrosebegum Jiwani from the School of Nursing and Dr. Ching-Yi (Emily) Wu from the School of Dentistry.

The six Magnuson Scholars who were selected for the 2005-2006 academic year are working on their projects as they pursue their individual goals.

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 U.S. Senate.

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. Funds to establish the Institute came from two grants totaling nearly $5 million from the U.S. Department of Education, from the State of Washington and from more than $550,000 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.

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

The current Magnuson Scholars and their projects:

Tatiana Kaminsky, from the School of Nursing — Kaminsky was an occupational therapist for nearly 10 years before she entered the Ph.D. program in the School of Nursing, and she is focusing her dissertation research on helping people with low vision, especially as the result of diabetic retinopathy.

She began by learning to measure the efficacy of occupational therapy treatments such as vision compensation and training with assistive technology devices. To determine how effective these are, she measures outcomes including improved independence in managing diabetes and in general self-care activities, as well as a person’s own perception of quality of life. She hopes that her research work will point to practical ways to help people with low vision.

She moved to Seattle seven years ago and recently married. She met her husband on the dance floor and they are still enthusiastic swing dancers.

Sarika Ogale, from the School of Pharmacy — Ogale, who was also a Magnuson Scholar in 2004-2005, is a candidate for a doctoral degree in the Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research and Policy Program. She was born in Lonavla, a small town near Mumbai, India. She earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in India and then moved to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in pharmacy administration from the University of Louisiana.

In the UW School of Pharmacy, she is now studying the long-term risks of drugs used to treat chronic obstructive lung disease when patients also have adult-onset diabetes. She is particularly interested in long-term studies of medication safety and effectiveness. Her husband is also working on a doctoral degree in medicinal chemistry in the School of Pharmacy; the rest of her family is in India. She likes to travel with her husband, and she enjoys dancing.

Janice Sabin, from the School of Social Work — Sabin joined the doctoral program in social work after working at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle as a medical social worker. She has been a prevention research trainee, with support from the National Institute of Mental Health for work at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center on a study of post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, functional impairment and use of health services among adolescents with traumatic injuries.

Her primary research interest is studying mechanisms that contribute to racial and ethnic health care disparities, and she plans to focus on the impact of unconscious bias in medical decision-making and care. She and her husband have three children.

Christina Wahlgren, from the School of Medicine — Wahlgren is a senior medical student using the Magnuson Scholar award to support a year of research focused on understanding wound healing and how that process is impaired in patients with diabetes. For people with diabetes, a simple skin ulcer can end up causing amputation of a limb, because sores do not heal normally. She describes diabetic ulcers as especially interesting because they represent an intriguing scientific dilemma along with a complex clinical picture.

Wahlgren, who was born in Forks, Wash., and graduated from Lynden High School, received her bachelor of science degree in microbiology from the UW and worked at Sea Mar Community Health Center in Seattle before she entered medical school. She plans a career as a dermatologist, or specialist in skin disorders, in an academic medical setting.

Yupeng Wang, from the School of Public Health and Community Medicine — Wang was born in Rizhao, a city in eastern China, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Shanghai Medical University. He came to the United States in 2001 to begin work toward a Ph.D. in toxicology from the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. He has been conducting research in Dr. Zhengui Xia’s laboratory, focusing on understanding signaling pathways related to the survival or death of nerve cells. He is also interested in how these signaling pathways in the central nervous system can be disrupted by environmental chemicals.

He plans to continue his research in neuroscience and neurotoxicology, and eventually hopes to have an academic career. His wife, who met him when they were students in Shanghai, is also a graduate student at the UW. He enjoys playing basketball, table tennis and badminton.

Dr. Orapin Veerayutthwilai, from the School of Dentistry — Veerayutthwilai came to the UW in 2002 to pursue a Ph.D. in the Department of Oral Biology. Born in Bangkok, Thailand, she graduated with honors from Chulalongkorn University School of Dentistry and then joined the faculty at Thammasat University School of Dentistry. She became interested in defense mechanisms to ward off tooth infection, and earned a master’s degree at Mahidol University, where she began working on changes that occur when tooth pulp becomes inflamed. She won first prize for her work in the International Association of Dental Research (IADR) Southeast Asian Travel Award competition and presented her work at the IADR meeting in San Diego in 2002.

She came to the UW to learn current molecular biology techniques with the goal of developing better ways to diagnose and treat tooth pulp inflammation. For her dissertation, she is working with Dr. Margaret Byers and Dr. Beverly Dale. Her hope is that better diagnosis and treatment options could prevent some of the 16 million root canal procedures performed each year. She hopes to combine basic science research and clinical work in an academic career. She has three brothers and three sisters in Thailand.