Month: March 2021

The Imhotep Connecticut National Medical Association Society Announces Its Historic Re-Launch and Inaugural Meeting

Farmington, CT- The Imhotep Connecticut National Medical Association Society held its first inaugural meeting with leadership of the National Medical Association, hospital executives, and legislative leaders on March 17th, 2021. Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, President of the CT NMA, recently announced the re-launch of the society.

“The goal in terms of the society is to work to create a welcoming environment for Black physicians, fellows, students and residents in the state of Connecticut. We aim to create an ecosystem that supports the work and concerns inclusive of all of these individuals. The society hopes to promote a sense of well-being through various programming, events and other venues that create comradery amongst the group,” stated Dr. Laurencin. “The society encourages the support of allies to this goal. It is gratifying to see the support of the leaders of all the major health systems in the state.”

The President of the National Medical Association, Dr. Leon McDougle, attended this inaugural meeting. It was noted that he was the first individual to donate to the society.

“Coming in as President Elect of the NMA, my charge was to visit as many state and local societies as possible. Due to Dr. Cato Laurencin’s efforts here we are today, moving forward in addressing very necessary issues within the Black community,” said Dr. McDougle.

The CT NMA Society serves as a networking platform for Black physicians and plays a significant role in the dissemination of health information to the Black Community. The CT NMA is a community-based affiliated organization which represents “a collective voice of Black physicians and will be a leading force for parity and justice in medicine and the elimination of disparities in health”, according to its mission statement.

National Medical Association (NMA) Region I Chair, Dr. Gary Butts of New York indicated, “Nothing matters more in my mind than the work we do for others and the support of the NMA. This society enables us to come together on behalf of the community that we have committed our professional lives to. This is just the beginning.”

Dr. Marja Hurley, the Vice-President of CT-NMA and Professor of Medicine and Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, stated, “I always felt it was critical that Black physicians be available to mentor students and residents. I also think given COVID-19 and the amounting health disparities we have seen over the past year, we need to be at the forefront, our voices need to be heard, and having this organization will allow us to be more engaged and welcome all of our allies who are willing to push forward.”

In July 2020, Dr. Laurencin assumed the role of the new President of the Society, and since has already made great advances in the organization’s development. Dr. Laurencin, along with the entire society, officially secured support and funding from all major Connecticut hospital healthcare systems including:

  • UConn Health
  • Hartford HealthCare
  • Connecticut Children’s
  • Trinity Health of New England
  • Yale New Haven Health
  • Eastern Connecticut Health Network
  • Nuvance Health
  • Waterbury Hospital/ Waterbury Health

Executives representing Connecticut hospital systems were present and reiterated their support for the CT NMA and its mission.

Chief Executive Officer and the Executive Vice President for Health Affairs for UConn Health, Dr. Andrew Agwunobi was in attendance and showed his support for the newly formed group. “Dr. Laurencin’s achievements at UConn have certainly raised the bar. He is a powerhouse for diversity and inclusion for the community. COVID-19 has shone a light on healthcare disparities, and now more than ever, diversity and inclusion is critical in the healthcare arena. The newly formed society and Dr. Cato Laurencin converging together will create a historic moment for Black healthcare.”

President and Chief Executive Officer of Hartford HealthCare, Mr. Jeffrey Flaks stated, “Hartford HealthCare is committed to making sustained and measurable progress to address, and ultimately eliminate, inequities in healthcare. Drastic changes are needed, and working with the CT NMA Society is an important step on this journey.”

Chief Executive Officer of Waterbury Health, Mr. Lester Schindel stated, “We are committed to improving the quality of healthcare. By being part of this organization it is consistent with our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. This society will enable our medical staff and leadership to continue to learn throughout this journey.”

Legislative leaders were also present, and confirmed their support. “This society will enable doing what needs to be done to change the health conditions of the people in our communities. This society will undoubtedly yield action and outcome,” commented State Senator Douglas McCrory.

The Imhotep Connecticut National Medical Association Society looks forward to tackling the challenges that lie ahead to create a better environment for Black doctors and to ultimately address health disparities in the State of Connecticut. For more information and to be a part of this growing society, please visit CTNMA.ORG.

Dr. Grady’s High School Mentee Publishes First Peer Reviewed Paper

Dr. James Grady, Assistant Director of the Connecticut Convergence Institute, Biostatistics Center is proud to announce that one of his Mentees, Rachel Brooks, of Christian Heritage High School published her first paper entitled “Prevalence of gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, autonomic and allergic manifestations in hospitalized patients with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome: a case-control study” in the peer-reviewed journal Rheumatology. Published by Oxford University Press, Rheumatology is one of two official journals of the British Society for Rheumatology.

Rachel decided to publish this paper after her research took first place at the 2020 CT Junior Science and Humanities Symposium Oral Research Competition, and more recently, her abstract was featured at the international Ehlers-Danlos Society ECHO Scientific Summit for Medical Professionals.

She began her medical research study in 2019. After independently developing a research plan and aims, she reached out to Dr. Grady, and he agreed to mentor her as she learned SAS statistical analysis software programming.

Rachel’s interest in Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) peaked because the group of rare connective tissue disorders runs in her family. In the past, a number of small cohort studies and previous observations have suggested a potential association between EDS and additional abnormalities affecting the digestive, cardiovascular, autonomic, and immune systems. Due to the nature of these small sample sizes and their fragmented, sometimes contradictory findings, prior to her study, an incomplete understanding of the true prevalence and frequency of these conditions in EDS patients remained. To provide a more cohesive and definitive picture—using a larger sample size and looking at a wider range of conditions—her project sought to explore whether a diagnosis of EDS is associated with a higher prevalence of gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, autonomic, and allergic manifestations.

“It is my hope that my research and words will reach physicians, patients with EDS, and undiagnosed individuals suffering from unexplained comorbidities or searching for more definitive answers.” says Rachel

Rachel’s research found a higher prevalence of these conditions in EDS patients. These findings should prompt physicians in hospital settings to consider connective tissue abnormalities in patients presenting with multiple unexplained conditions.

Honoring Dr. Eric N. James, a Former Institute of Regenerative Engineering Graduate Student

Eric James
Dr. Eric James and Dr. Lakshmi Nair

It is with profound sadness that we inform you of the passing of Dr. Eric Nathaniel James, Assistant Professor of the University of Hartford, and a graduate of the Skeletal Biology and Regeneration Area of Concentration in the Biomedical Science Ph.D. program at UConn Health.

Dr. James earned his Bachelors of Science from Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He then joined the Professional Science Master’s Program at the University of Connecticut, followed by the Graduate Certificate Program at UConn Health, under the mentorship of Dr. Marja Hurley. He later went on to join the Institute for Regenerative Engineering as a graduate student in 2010. Dr. James displayed a strong passion for teaching and pursued a career in research combining genetics and regenerative engineering. In collaboration with Dr. Anne Delany’s laboratory, he focused his thesis work on nanostructured scaffolds for microRNA-mediated bone regeneration. He graduated with his Ph.D. in 2015, and performed a post-doctoral fellowship at Tufts University. During that time, he also served as an adjunct professor of Newbury College and Quinnipiac University. In 2018, Dr. James joined the University of Hartford as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Biomedical Engineering.

Dr. James was a kind, thoughtful and beloved member of our group, who had a tremendous passion for teaching and research. He touched the lives of many through his sustained commitment to mentoring, elevating others, and paying it forward. Throughout his career, he was particularly involved in mentoring at risk underrepresented minority students. Dr. James’ commitment to helping others is his everlasting legacy. He will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.

By Dr. Lakshmi Nair