10 EVMS/W&M collaborative research projects funded

Ten research projects involving faculty at William & Mary and Eastern Virginia Medical School will each receive $10,000 in funding as part of a program to foster collaboration between researchers at the two institutions.

The funded projects range from laboratory science to explorations of potential community service initiatives to work aimed at increasing efficiencies in health care delivery.

“The breadth of these grants illustrates the variety of areas of potential collaborations between William & Mary and EVMS,” said Jennifer Mellor, professor of economics and director of William & Mary’s Schroeder Center for Health Policy. She noted that while many of the William & Mary faculty are in STEM departments such as biology, psychology and mathematics, other collaborators represent professional programs in public policy and the university’s schools of law, business and education.

Mellor is William & Mary’s point person in a continuing initiative to explore areas in which the university can work more closely with EVMS. Her counterpart at the Norfolk-based medical school is C. Donald Combs, vice president and dean of the EVMS School of Health Professions. The Commonwealth of Virginia and Sentara Healthcare have both funded the initiative, respectively contributing $200,000 and $100,000.

Mellor and Combs were both members of a panel that reviewed all of the proposals. The review panel included 11 people, five each from William & Mary and EVMS, plus a representative from Sentara Healthcare, Paul Chidester, vice president of medical affairs at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. Mellor explains that their process was based on criteria used by federal funding agencies

“We used a rigorous review process,” Mellor said. “Our process mirrored what is done by NIH [National Institutes of Health] review panels.”

The review panel discussed the significance and innovation of the proposed work, and Mellor said they gave particular attention to the collaborative aspect of each proposal as well as its potential for securing additional outside funding. Reports from the collaborative research teams are due in mid-October.

"We were pleased with the number of faculty who submitted proposals," said Combs. "The breadth of these research proposals suggests that there are a number of fruitful opportunities for meaningful faculty collaboration."

The request for the proposals was issued in May at a joint William & Mary/EVMS workshop that highlighted the potential for collaborative research between faculty from the two institutions and gave faculty the chance to meet potential collaborators and discuss research ideas. Mellor said that many of the proposals had their genesis in faculty discussions at the May meeting.

A second workshop is scheduled at the EVMS Norfolk campus on Oct. 11 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The sessions will feature remarks by former Virginia Health Commissioner Karen Remley, founding director of the Brock Institute for Community and Global Health at EVMS. The October workshop will also have two panels featuring W&M/EVMS research in areas of children’s health and neuroscience, as well as two break-out sessions with opportunities for faculty interaction.

The collaboration initiative arose from discussions on a 2012 proposal for EVMS to become William & Mary’s school of medicine. The merger idea was put on hold after the W&M Due Diligence Committee, charged with exploring the idea, said a decision on a full union should wait, but that the two institutions should explore areas particularly ripe for collaborative research.

The first round of collaborative research grants is listed below.

Critical Factors in Electronic Health Records and Patient Portal Use Associated with Improved Patient Health Outcomes

Principal Investigator: Inga Carboni, Mason School of Business, W&M

Co-Investigators: Christine Matson, Department of Family and Community Medicine, EVMS; Chon Abraham, Mason School of Business, W&M

Developmental Abnormalities in the Brains of Zebra Finches, an Avian Model Organism, Exposed to Environmentally Relevant Levels of Mercury

Principal Investigator: Daniel A. Cristol, Department of Biology, W&M

Co-Investigator: Sheila Scoville, Department of Anatomy and Pathology, EVMS

Development of Social Risk Warning Labels to Reduce Smoking Behavior in Young Adults

Principal Investigator: Catherine A. Forestell, Department of Psychology, W&M

Co-Investigators: Kelli England Will, Department of Pediatrics, EVMS; Cheryl L. Dickter, Department of Psychology, W&M

Role of Nitric Oxide Synthase in the Development of Retinopathy of Prematurity

Principal Investigator: Alireza Hosseini, Department of Physiological Sciences, EVMS

Co-Investigators: Robin Looft-Wilson, Department of Kinesiology & Health Sciences, W&M; Frank A. Lattanzio, Department of Physiological Sciences; EVMS

Understanding the Risks and Prevalence of Human Infection by the Parasitic Nematode Gongylonema pulchrum

Principal Investigator: Aurora Esquela Kerscher, Department of Microbiology & Molecular Cell Biology, EVMS

Co-Investigator: Jonathan Allen, Department of Biology, W&M

Novel Mechanisms to Safeguard the Transmission of Genetic Information in Meiosis

Principal Investigator: Oliver Kerscher, Department of Biology, W&M

Co-Investigator: Aurora E. Kerscher, Department of Microbiobiology and Molecular Cell Biology, EVMS

Development of a Clinically Practical Protocol for the Evaluation of EEG-based Neurometrics

Principal Investigator: Paul D. Kieffaber, Department of Psychology & Program in Neuroscience, W&M

Co-Investigator: Hamid R. Okhravi, Department of Internal Medicine, Geriatrics, EVMS

Hospital Logistics

Principal Investigator: Rex Kincaid, Department of Mathematics, W&M

Co-Investigators: Joseph Robbins, Department of Internal Medicine, EVMS; Lawrence Leemis, Department of Mathematics, W&M; Frans Schalekamp, Department of Mathematics, W&M; Anke Van Zuylen, Department of Mathematics, W&M

A Health Literacy Partnership to Educate Medical Students and Adult Learners

Principal Investigator: Jennifer M. Mellor, Departments of Economics and Public Policy, W&M

Co-Investigators: Bruce Britton, Department of Family and Community

Medicine, EVMS; Joan Peterson, Literacy for Life, W&M School of Education

Development of a Medical-Legal Partnership between EVMS and William & Mary Law School

Principal Investigator: Patty Roberts, School of Law, W&M

Co-Investigator: Daniel Rory Kelly, Department of Pediatrics, EVMS