Marathon Monday & Meb’s Victory!

American citizen Mebrahtom "Meb" Keflezighi  won the Boston Marathon and became a face America's spirit of resilience and hope!

American citizen Mebrahtom “Meb” Keflezighi won the Boston Marathon and became a face of America’s spirit of resilience and hope!

April 21 marks a historic day in our nation. Mebrahtom “Meb” Keflezighi won the Boston Marathon. Meb, as he is known, is an Eritrean-born U.S. citizen, and he is as real an American hero as I could think of.

Meb came here, he studied hard, he dedicated himself to his craft, and he ran for his country, he ran for the United States in the Boston Marathon. He is the first American to win the men’s race since 1983, and he is the oldest winner since 1931.

Not only did Meb lead for most of the race, but he beat out very stiff foreign competition.

Meb embodies what I believe to be the best America has to offer; he worked hard, he believed in himself, and he carried the memories of last year’s Boston Marathon tragedy with him, running for and representing the resilience of the United States.

So, on this Tuesday, we can look with great pride to Marathon Monday, and now declare the day to be Meb’s Monday!

Best, Alexi McHugh, garnethealthanista guest blogger

Vernberg Lecture: A “Prescription” for Tobacco Control

In the days leading up to the Vernberg Lecture, the exhibit "History of Tobacco Policy" will be on display at the Public Health Research Center. This is one of the images from the exhibit.

In the days leading up to the Vernberg Lecture, the exhibit “History of Tobacco Policy” will be on display at the Public Health Research Center. This is one of the images from the exhibit.

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report warning of the health hazards of smoking. In the intervening years, scientists, health care leaders, researchers and policy makers have determined “what works, and what steps must be taken if we truly want to bring to a close one of our nation’s most tragic battles — one that has killed ten times the number of Americans who died in all of our nation’s wars combined,” according to “The Health Consequences of Smoking — 50 Years of Progress.”

The history and current status of tobacco control and policy will be highlighted during the Winona B. Vernberg Distinguished Lecture at 11 a.m. Thursday, April 24, at USC’s Russell House Theater. The program, “Tobacco Control: A Glass Half Full or Half Empty?,” is free and open to the University community and the public.

Beginning noon on Monday, April 21, the exhibit, “50 Years of Tobacco Policy” will be on display in the first-floor atrium of the Arnold School’s Public Health Research Center. The exhibit, which will highlight the 50-year Surgeon General’s Report and a century of cigarettes, will be available through noon, Thursday, April 24.

Dr. Michael Cummings of the Medical University of South Carolina will be the featured speaker for the Vernberg Lecture, and he will share his “prescription for tobacco control in South Carolina.”

Considered one of the world’s leading authorities on tobacco policy, Dr. Cummings is co-leader of the Hollings Cancer Center Tobacco Research Program. He will discuss the current status of tobacco use and policy, which he says, is “the analogy to the glass half full or half empty, the prevalence of tobacco use, who is using and changes in the types of products.”

For example, “the move to filtered, lower-tar products confers a higher relative risk of disease compared to earlier versions of cigarettes.”

“I also will discuss where things may be headed in the future – the global epidemic of tobacco use (is history going to repeating itself in other parts of the world), alternative nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, as a disruptive force in the tobacco world and the challenge of developing meaningful product regulations to accelerate a more rapid reduction in combustible tobacco use,” he said.

Dr. Cummings said he will talk about “what we should be doing in our own backyard … while useful to think globally, what are some things we could be doing now in South Carolina to accelerate a reduction in tobacco use.”

Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services at the time of the new report’s release, says ending the tobacco epidemic is vital to efforts increase the life expectancy and quality of life of all Americans.

“This year alone, nearly one-half million adults will still die prematurely because of smoking. Annually, the total economic costs due to tobacco are now over $289 billion. And if we continue on our current trajectory, 5.6 million children alive today who are younger than 18 years of age will die prematurely as a result of smoking,.” she says.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) expands access to smoking cessation services and now requires most insurance companies to cover cessation treatments. The act’s Public Health and Prevention Fund is supporting innovative and effective community-based programs as well as public education campaigns promoting prevention and helping people to quit.

The successes over the past half century are to be applauded, but the work to save lives will require a 21st prescription!

(NOTE: The Public Health Research Center, where the exhibit will be located, is at 921 Assembly Street. The Vernberg Lecture will be at USC’s Russell House Theater, located on the second floor of the building on Greene Street. Parking is available via the Bull Street Garage.)

Very Exciting News!


So, I just got back from an HIV Planning Council meeting for South Carolina. It was very refreshing to see community members who lived in, and cared for, their communitiesy. I have been to a lot of meetings where there are people who come from out of town and meet and talk about problems of others. These people really got me excited for the work I will be doing this summer.

I recently found out that I will be headed back to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this summer and also will be at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I will be working with Project CARES and other HIV efforts.

If you need anything from me I will be at my e-mail. Study hard! The semester is almost over!

Best,  Alexi (

Public Health Week Ahead!


The Arnold School of Public Health will observe National Public Health Week, April 7 – 13, with a series of events that are free and open to the University community and the public.

The signature event for the observance is the 2014 James E. Clyburn Health Disparities Lecture on Friday, April 11. Dr. Donna M. Christensen, the first female to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, will be the keynote speaker.

Events will include:

Beginning, Monday, April 7: Check out the American Public Health Association podcast, “Eat Well,” featuring Dr. Sonya Jones, who is the Food and Nutrition Section. The podcast talks about nutrition and food safety in the United States, and what it takes to eat well.

Tuesday, April 8, Healthy Carolina Farmers Market: Members of the Dean’s Student Advisory Council (DSAC) will be at the Healthy Carolina Farmers Market from 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. The market will be held on Greene Street in front of Russell House. DSAC will be available to discuss healthy lifestyle choices and also to discuss the Wednesday, April 9, Be The Match® Bone Marrow Donor Drive. (For anyone unable to participate in the April 9 event, information and kits will be available at the table for those who wish to become donors.)

Wednesday, April 9, Bone Marrow Donor Drive: The Dean’s Student Advisory Council (DSAC) will hold a Be The Match® Bone Marrow Donor Drive from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. The event will be located on the first-floor Atrium in the Public Health Research Center, located at 921 Assembly St. People between the ages of 18 to 44 are encouraged to become part of the Be The Match® Donor Registry.

The event is open to USC students, faculty and staff and members of the community. Bone marrow transplants help people with blood cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma, and other life-threatening diseases, such as Sickle Cell Disease. Minorities are encouraged to participate because the registry currently does not have enough minority donors to help those needing bone marrow transplants.

Wednesday, April 9, Connect 4 Success: “Connect 4 Success, A Night of Connecting, networking & mentorship” will be held beginning at 6:30 p.m. in Room 140 of the Discovery 1 building, located at 9:15 Greene Street. The program is presented by the American Public Health Association, the S.C. Public Health Association and the Dean’s Student Advisory Council of the Arnold School.

Thursday, April 10, Dental/Oral Health Program: The University community is invited to a program, titled “Prevent HPV, Prevent Oral Cancer,” beginning at 5 p.m. in Room 140 of the Discovery 1 building, located at 915 Greene St. The program is organized by Dr. Naveed Sadiq, a doctoral student in the Department of Health Services Policy and Management. Guest speakers will include Arnold School faculty members Dr. James Hebert and Dr. Anwar Merchant and Dr. Monique William of USC’s Student Health Center. RSVP to Pizza and drinks to be provided.

Friday, April 11, James E. Clyburn Health Disparities Lecture: The theme of this year’s program is “Moving Forward: Making the Affordable Care Act Work through Research, Education, and Community Engagement.” Dr. Donna M. Christensen will be the featured guest speaker, and Congressman Clyburn also will give remarks on the Affordable Care Act. The event, to be held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, will begin at 9:30 a.m. and include the presentation of the James E. Clyburn Health Disparities Leadership Awards and a scientific poster session. A reception will follow the program.

A novel wrinkle in liver disease research

Dr. Ratanesh Kumar Seth is a post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Saurabh Chatterjee in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences.

Dr. Ratanesh Kumar Seth is a post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Saurabh Chatterjee in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences.

A study by researchers at the Arnold School of Public Health has identified a novel molecule on the surface of an immune cell in the liver (CD57) that can act as an efficient biomarker for identifying nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a “silent” liver disease with hardly any proven treatment regimen for its cure.

Published in the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, the study is the first to show that the CD57 expression on CD8+ cells is increased following metabolic oxidative stress during NASH progression, said Dr. Saurabh Chatterjee, director of the Environmental Health and Disease Laboratory in the Arnold School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences.

This increased expression correlates well with increased hepatic apoptosis followed by development of NASH, said Dr. Chatterjee, one of the study’s authors.

Further, studies also show that the increased CD57 levels and expression are mediated by leptin, which has a simultaneous role in the inflammatory pathways in NASH and the fibrogenesis that follows.

The study, led by Arnold School post-doctoral fellow Dr. Ratanesh Kumar Seth, is valuable because incidences of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a hepatic manifestation of metabolic syndrome and inflammation, have increased in the last decade. This correlates with the rise in obesity to alarming proportions not only in the Western world, but also in developing countries such as India, Brazil and China.

Epidemiological data published in the past five years link the involvement of the built environment and environmental pollutants in aiding the progression of steatosis (fatty liver) to NASH, Type 2 Diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show strong correlation of obesity with higher liver disease death rates in several states across the nation, including South Carolina. Recent published reports from our laboratory investigate the role of the environmental toxin bromodichloromethane (BDCM), a disinfection byproduct of drinking water in hepatic metabolic reprogramming and progression of NASH, said Dr. Chatterjee.

Drinking water disinfection byproducts are formed when chlorine is used for disinfection. Though chlorination has saved millions of lives across the world, the potential impact of DBPs was never highlighted because the EPA has set limits for the individual contaminants like BDCM in drinking water. A recent study from the EPA, CDC, UNC and ASTDR show fluctuation of the concentration of DBPs in tap water during winter and summer months. Other studies also find the role of BDCM concentrations with reduced birth weight in newborns, he said.

The studies that were published about the toxicity of BDCM have been reported in a normal population. With obesity prevalent among 34.5 percent of the U.S.  population (110 million) and obese individuals having an underlying condition of inflammation, we have argued that the doses proven to be nontoxic to non-obese population might be causing metabolic syndrome, and fatty liver disease in obese, he said.

NAFLD/NASH is a silent liver disease and there are hardly any proven treatment regimen for its cure. The scarcity of data regarding the involvement of the built environment and efficient clinical biomarkers makes it a larger public health challenge. The present report by Dr. Seth, a postdoctoral fellow from Dr. Chatterjee’s laboratory identifies a novel molecule on the surface of an immune cell in the liver (CD57) that can act as an efficient biomarker for identifying this disease.

Our study shows for the first time that CD57 expression on CD8+ cells is increased following metabolic oxidative stress during NASH progression and this increased expression correlates well with increased hepatic apoptosis followed by development of NASH. Further, studies also show that the increased CD57 levels and expression are mediated by leptin, which has a simultaneous role in the inflammatory pathways in NASH and the fibrogenesis that follows.

The discovery of CD57+CD8+ cells in an animal liver is in stark contrast to earlier reports where studies show that there are no CD8+CD57+ T cells in these models. This may be due to an organ specific compartmentalization of these T cell subsets which were not observed earlier, Chatterjee said.

“Our results are also significant in the findings that show that the CD57 expression was metabolic oxidative stress driven and was highly dependent on CYP2E1, a xenobiotic enzyme present in higher concentrations in the liver parenchymal cells,” he said.

“Few research reports show that controlling and modulating oxidative stress in the extra cellular milieu may influence T cell signaling and activation. Our findings demonstrate for the first time that higher levels of CYP2E1 and leptin mediated CD57 expressing cytotoxic T cells play a crucial role in the development of NASH and provide a novel insight of immune dysregulation in NASH. The findings present a novel wrinkle to the field of liver disease research and provide new therapeutic targets for cure of environment associated NASH.”

A chance to save a life …


I am reaching out to you today to ask you to try and help save a fellow Gamecock’s life.

Let me introduce you to Eric Villeneuve, a student at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, and member of the ROTC. His father Tom has a rare form of lymphoma (cancer) called Sézary Syndrome and will need to find a match in order to save his life. That’s where this swab drive comes in.

The swab will be taken from the inside of your cheek and only takes minutes to do. For the squeamish, no needles are involved! The drive will be 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, in the Russell House Ballroom.

If you can attend, and have time, please fill out the link below (it takes less than one minute) so that we can estimate the number of participants in the drive:

Best, Alexi McHugh
Arnold School of Public Health, junior, guest blogger

New research earning accolades

The research being done by Dr. Saurabh Chatterjee and his research team is helping scientists know more about obesity and liver disease.

The research being done by Dr. Saurabh Chatterjee and his research team is helping scientists know more about obesity and liver disease.

For science-challenged brains, the research being done in the lab of Dr. Saurabh Chatterjee may be difficult to understand. What is easy to comprehend, however, is that Dr. Chatterjee and his research team are making amazing strides in the understanding the role of environmental factors in causing  two liver diseases — nonalcoholic steatohepatitis  and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, both of which are believed to be linked to obesity.

Dr. Chatterjee, who joined the faculty of the Arnold School’s Department of Environmental  Health Sciences in 2012 from NIH, went to work immediately to set up his lab and the research team that would work with him. By January 2014, the young researcher’s lab had produced an impressive 11 peer-reviewed studies in prestigious journals in approximately a year’s time.

One of studies, in fact, was featured as a highlighted article by the journal Toxological Sciences. Among the comments made by editor Dr. Matthew Campen about the study on nonalcoholic steatohepatitis is this: “… future research in this area will be exceedingly valuable to understanding the impact of environmental contaminants on public health.”

Dr. Chatterjee is quick to praise the hard work of the researchers working with him and Arnold School administrators Dean Tom Chandler, Dr. Dwayne Porter and Dr. Greg Hand who are dedicated to the success of young researchers.

“There is a spirit of confidence in helping the next generation of environmental health researchers succeed in their work,” Chatterjee says.

“To have the Dean meet with young, tenure-track professors and the graduate students in our labs is remarkable. This doesn’t happen in every institution, but it is what sets the Arnold School apart from the others.”

As researchers around the world work to halt the obesity epidemic, we can be proud that the Arnold School is playing a key role through the efforts of young researchers like Dr. Chatterjee and the students who will follow him.

An opportunity for grant funds

In an era when federal funding for research has become intensely competitive and has fewer offerings, new opportunities for grants from the Disability Research and Dissemination Center (DRDC) at the University of South Carolina have been announced. The grants are for researchers whose studies are focused on birth defects and developmental disabilities.

To access the RFAs: visit

The DRDC conducts research related to the priorities of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), which seeks to prevent birth defects and promote the health and well being of people with disabilities. DRDC projects are funded through subcontracts to university and other academic and professional partners that utilize medical, social and basic science, and public health approaches.

The center joins an impressive interdisciplinary group: Dr. Suzanne McDermott, who joined the Arnold School’s faculty in December, is the prinicipal investigator for the Administrative and Research Cores of the DRDC. The co-PIs are Dr. Margaret Turk at SUNY Upstate Medical University (Training and Evaluation Cores), and attorney Roberta Carlin at the American Association on Health and Disability (Dissemination Core).

Applications for the following grants are due by Feb. 28:

RFA-NR14-01 EHDI Quality Measures – Development of Quality Measures to Facilitate Reporting of Newborn Hearing Screening and Follow-Up Data by Providers to Jurisdictional EHDI Programs. The  estimated funding is $125,000 for one year (one award is expected);

RFA-NR14-02 LTSAE Monitoring – Evaluating Developmental Monitoring with “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” In Child Care Settings. The estimated funding is $200,000/year for two years (one award is expected);

RFA-R14-001 EHDI C-Section – Birth by Cesarean Delivery and Failure on First Otoacoustic Emissions Hearing. The estimated funding is $60,000 for one year (two awards are expected);

RFA-R14-002 EMR Rare Conditions – Linkage of Electronic Medical Records and Administrative Databases: A Novel Tool for Surveillance and Health Services Research for Rare Conditions. The estimated funding is $100,000 per year for three years (one award is expected);

RFA-R14-003 Healthy Weight – Validating and/or Modifying Mainstream Health Weight Interventions for People with Disabilities; estimated funding for year 1 is $350,000, with funding for up to two additional years anticipated (one to three awards are expected).

To learn more about the application process, including required elements of the brief, four-page research strategy, please visit

Physical Activity and the State of the Union


With President Obama’s State of the Union address scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 28, it is interesting to note that the American College of Sports Medicine and more than 100 other organizations have asked that an important health measure be added to the speech.

The groups sent the President a letter citing physical activity as a way to keep Americans healthy and fit, with numerous other benefits – including the high costs of health care.

The letter said, in part: “As you prepare for your State of the Union address on January 28th, we respectfully request that you dedicate a portion of your address to the benefits and power of physical activity. Physical activity has been shown to reduce health care costs, prevent chronic disease, enhance productivity and improve quality of life. Numerous studies reinforce the common-sense principle of maintaining health through physical activity and exercise and with its ability to treat and prevent obesity, diabetes, heart and bone disease and other chronic conditions, exercise is powerful medicine, indeed.”

ACSM leaders point out that, with health care costs rising at unsustainable rates, the demonstrated ability of physical activity to prevent and treat chronic disease makes it imperative to help all Americans meet federal physical activity guidelines: 150 minutes per week for healthy adults and 300 minutes per week for children.

Tune in to find out if the President makes this part of his speech. After all, First Lady Michelle Obama is an advocate for physical activity and health through her Let’s Move! program.

And, in case you didn’t know, the Arnold School has had three faculty members to serve as president of the ACSM – Dr. Steve Blair, Dr. Larry Durstine and Dr. Russ Pate.

(Illustration by nirots,

S.C. teen pregnancy rate drops


South Carolina’s teen birth rate has dropped 47 percent in 20 years and is at an all-time low.

This good news comes from the S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which is led by Arnold School alumnus Forrest Alton.

Alton, executive director of the S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, spoke at the State House this week and said the drop is “one of the nation’s and one of our state’s most remarkable and too often untold success stories.”

From 2011 – 2012, the state’s teen birth rate dropped 7 percent to 36.4 births for every 1,000 girls ages 15 – 19.

The good news comes with the realization that more work must be done. South Carolina ranks 11th in the nation in teen birth rates.

The near 50 percent decrease in teen pregnancies, however, marks an important milestone in public health in our state and is important for the future health of children and adults.

The work and commitment by Alton and his colleagues are to be commended.

To read more, visit


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