Month: June 2019

Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Receives First Journal Impact Factor of 2.147

Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

We are pleased to announce that the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities has received a first Impact Factor of 2.147. Our first Impact Factor is the highest among journals focusing on racial and ethnic disparities and confirms that we are the leading journal in the field.

Thank you to our editors, editorial staff and board members, reviewers and authors for their valuable contribution to our journal. We look forward to continued success as the journal continues to strengthen and grow!


Cato T. Laurencin MD, PhD


Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

The Connecticut Convergence Institute Congratulates Paulos Mengsteab on his Successful Doctoral Dissertation Defense


On Tuesday, June 25, 2019 Connecticut Convergence Institute Graduate Assistant Paulos Mengsteab successfully defended his doctoral dissertation titled “Evaluation of the Regenerative Potential of a Bioengineered Ligament.” With years of support from his Major Advisor, Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, he passed his written dissertation and oral defense. The entire Connecticut Convergence Institute sends him a big congratulations and looks forward to seeing what is next for Paulos!

Abstract: The goal of this work is to evaluate the regenerative potential of bioengineered ligaments in a rabbit ACL reconstruction model. Bioengineered ligaments, composed of poly (l-lactic) acid (PLLA) microfibers, were fabricated by braiding and the effect of growth factor and bone marrow aspirate concentrate therapy to enhance regeneration on this matrix was assessed. To achieve this goal, three specific aims were undertaken: 1) development of a braiding machine to fabricate scalable bioengineered ligaments, 2) evaluation of the osteointegration of bioengineered ligaments with and without bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) supplementation, and 3) evaluation of the effect of materials, bone marrow aspirate concentrate, and growth factors on the regenerative properties of bioengineered ligaments.  Herein, we achieved the fabrication of a bioengineered ligament with a peak load up to 2500 N. Secondly, we found that the osteointegration of the bioengineered ligament in the bone tunnel is predominately anchored by Sharpey fibers, but that BMP-2 supplementation through saline injections did not promote greater bone formation in the bone tunnels. Third, the importance of surgical technique in the fixation of a bioengineered ligament in a rabbit ACL model was found with significantly improved results when fixing the graft in flexion. Additionally, the mechanical properties of the bioengineered ligament were the highest reported in a rabbit ACL model at 12 weeks. Furthermore, it was shown that a bioengineered ligament composed of an 83:17 blend of PLLA and polyethylene terephthalate demonstrates significantly higher mineral apposition rates compared to PLLA alone, which is hypothesized to be a consequence of reduced acidic byproducts. Finally, it was found that the regeneration of the bioengineered ligament undergoes a mechanism of endochondral ossification in the bone tunnel and that BMAC therapy promotes the presence of chondrocyte-like cells within the fibers of the ligament. It is theorized that the compressive forces placed on cells during tensile loading coupled with the low oxygen tension environment promoted the endochondral ossification seen. Overall, this work uncovers the mechanism of regeneration for bioengineered ligaments and provides evidence for the potential of complete bone tunnel regeneration.

Mental Resilience Health Cafe- Friday, July 19, 2019

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Topic: Dr. Surita Rao will discuss addiction as a brain disorder, and the implications of that for treatment, including both psychosocial therapies and medications. The disease of addiction carries a lot of stigma and people are often angry and frustrated with the person who suffers from a substance use disorder, asking why they just cannot stop using. While recovery is definitely a choice on the part of the patient, it is not a simple one. A large number of people who suffer from an addictive illness also have coexisting mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. It is often difficult to determine which condition started first, but treating both simultaneously often helps the person to get better from both conditions.

About Dr. Surita Rao: Surita Rao, M.B.B.S, M.D. FASAM, is an associate professor and director of the psychiatry residency training program, at the University of Connecticut Medical School, Department of psychiatry. From December 2002 through October 2014, she was the Chair and Director of the Behavioral Health Service Line at Saint Francis Care. She was the Service Medical Director, Whiting Forensic Division, Connecticut Valley Hospital, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services from November 2014 through October 2015. She completed medical school at Bankura Sammilani Medical College in India and did her psychiatry residency training at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Staten Island, New York and the Yale University School of Medicine. She did her addiction psychiatry fellowship at the Yale University School of Medicine. She has been on the faculty at both Yale and Emory Universities. Her clinical work has focused on addiction psychiatry. Her career has focused on patient care, administration and teaching. Dr. Rao has served on the Board of Directors for the American Society of Addiction Medicine and as vice chair of their national membership committee. Currently she serves on the ASAM ethics committee. She is past president of the CT chapter of ASAM and is on the executive committee of the Connecticut Chapter of ASAM. She also serves on the Board of the Hartford Dispensary. She has done multiple regional and national presentations on substance use disorders and mental health issues. . She did a variety of media appearances on television and radio over her career, including appearances on CNN and a pilot series of a radio show on Voice America Internet radio, “​ Mental Health with Dr. Surita Rao”. Podcasts can be found online and through iTunes.

The first event of the 2019 Convergence Seminar Series Featuring Susmita Bose, Ph.D. yields a great turnout!

Susmita Bose Lecture

Susmita Bose Lecture

Susmita Bose Lecture


Today dozens of students, faculty and staff gathered in Friend’s Hall to enjoy an engaging presentation by Susmita Bose, Ph.D. Dr. Bose presented on 3D Printing in Fabrication of Biomedical Devices and Drug Delivery for Bone Disorders. A Q&A session was held following the presentation where attendees had an opportunity to dive deeper into her intriguing concepts.

The Connecticut Convergence Institute would like to thank Dr. Bose for joining us and sharing her wealth of expertise!

The Connecticut Convergence Institute supports Hartford Youth Scholars at the 2019 Celebrations Gala

HYS logoOn June 6th members of the Connecticut Convergence Institute attended the 2019 Hartford Youth Scholars Celebrations Gala as a Change Agent sponsor for the event. With over 300 supporters in attendance, the event raised over $188,000.00 to help support the program throughout the year! The event acknowledges and celebrates the academic achievement of the graduating high school and college Hartford Youth Scholars.

The Hartford Youth Scholars’ primary objective is to place Scholars who complete the program at four-year colleges with the preparation to be successful in the postsecondary environment, and continue to support them through college graduation. HYS fulfills a mission of creating lifetime opportunities for underserved Hartford children through education. The program identifies and recruits highly motivated Hartford middle school students, preparing them for a rigorous high school education and assists them in gaining acceptance and financial assistance at top independent schools in the region with proven records of college placement.



HYS CCI team dinner HYS Speker


Check out this recently published article by multiple CT Convergence Institute team members featured in American Chemical Society’s Applied Polymer Materials

ACS APM cover

Synthesis, Physicochemical Analysis, and Side Group Optimization of Degradable Dipeptide-Based Polyphosphazenes as Potential Regenerative Biomaterials depicts the synthetic and design flexibility of polyphosphazene polymers that provides a versatile platform for the fine-tuning and modulation of material properties. This property control ultimately leads to a class of biomaterials with a wide range of physicochemical and biological properties that can meet specific requirements for different tissue regenerative engineering and other biomedical applications. The composition‒structure‒properties relationships of the polyphosphazene biomaterials are fully presented. The image shows the scheme of the macromolecular substitution, the second image shows the flexible platform provided by the macromolecular substitution and hydrogen bonding capability of the dipeptide side groups, and the third shows the resultant materials with a wide range of properties that can be adopted in many different regenerative purposes. The two-headed arrow indicates a wide range and diversity.

CT Convergence Institute contributors- Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, Kenneth S. Ogueri, Riley H. Blumenfield, Jorge L. Escobar Ivirico

Preparing a CV and Personal Statement

To be discussed:

  • Differences between resume and curriculum vitae (CV)
  • General format and style, sections, and things to include on a CV
  • The purpose of personal statements for professional programs
  • Identifying and communicating skills and personal qualities on CV and personal statement


Anthony Vella, PhD
Professor and Chair

UConn Health, Boehringer Ingelheim Chair in Immunology

Associate Dean of Research Mentoring and Career Development

PhD and Post-Doc Career Path

A Q&A session where you can ask all your questions about applying to graduate school, attending graduate school, life after graduate school, and why to consider graduate school in the first place.


Christopher Heinen, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Medicine
Investigator, Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center and Center for Molecular Oncology
Director of Postdoctoral Affairs

Kimberly Dodge-Kafka, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology
Calhoun Cardiology Center