University of Minnesota Alumni Association

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Up Front

Med school fights COVID-19 misinformation on social media, record patents for U of M, and more.

While many U of M classes will make use of distance learning this fall, certain activities like field microbiology employ social distancing and masks as the pandemic continues to upend daily life.
Photo Credit: Eric Miller

Med School Fights COVID-19 Disinformation

Illustration Credit: Ryan Peltier

To combat falsehoods about COVID-19 circulating widely on social media, a new virtual course at the U of M Medical School trains students to recognize and amplify reliable public health messaging and engage in respectful and informed medical discourse on social media.

Kristina Krohn (M.D. ’10) created a four-week elective course, COVID-19: Outbreaks and the Media, with experts in the U of M’s journalism school who specialize in public health communication. The course teaches medical students about COVID-19 and fact-checking data, translating scientific literature, and using social media to connect the public with accurate information about the pandemic.

The success of the course led to its recent publication in the journal Academic Pediatrics, and earned it additional funding from the medical school through a COVID-19 Medical Education Innovation grant. Krohn says training medical students to be “sharers of knowledge” is critical—both for fellow physicians and for their patients.

Multiple Alumni Named 2020 Bush Fellows

The Bush Foundation recently announced its 2020 Bush Fellows, a group of 24 visionary leaders from Minnesota, the Dakotas, and the 23 Indigenous nations within the region. Several of this year’s fellows have earned degrees at the University of Minnesota.

According to the organization, “Fellows [receive] up to $100,000 over 12 to 24 months to pursue formal and informal learning experiences that help them develop the skills, attributes and relationships they need to become more effective, equitable leaders who can drive change in their communities and region as a whole.”

Alumni from the Twin Cities campus include the fellows pictured above: Amira Adawe (B.S. ’07, M.P.H. ’15), David Anderson (M.P.A. ’14), Roque Diaz (pursuing his Ph.D.), Ani Ryan Koch (M.P.H. ’16), and Brittany Lewis (M.A. ’12, Ph.D. ’15).

In addition, two of the fellows earned degrees at UMN-Duluth: Kirsten Kennedy and Jenna Udenberg.

U of M 17th in Patents Among Universities Worldwide

The Turing Tumble was designed by Paul Boswell (Ph.D. ’08) as a low-tech way to help kids discover how computers work. The Venture Center helped Boswell launch a company to manufacture and sell the game.
Image Courtesy of Turing Tumble

The U of M ranks 17th in the world—ninth among U.S. public universities—on a recent list of universities granted the most U.S. patents in 2019.

The Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Utility Patents list, released by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association, draws on data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to highlight the vital role patents play in university research and innovation. UMN has ascended the rankings continuously for the past five years, climbing from 50th in 2014.

Patenting new technologies allows the University to protect intellectual property and license it to companies or organizations with the ability to develop it into a product or service. UMN received 102 U.S. utility patents in 2019, up from 89 the previous year. The most recent UMN Technology Commercialization annual report notes that, for the fiscal year ending June 2019, University researchers disclosed 391 new inventions and were granted a total of 187 U.S. and foreign patents.

U of M Scholarships Honor George Floyd

During George Floyd’s memorial service, attendees called upon universities to create scholarships in his honor to help create a more just, equitable world.

The U of M, along with numerous higher education institutions, has announced several new scholarships as a result.

• The George Floyd Memorial Scholarship in Law was established in mid-June with a gift from spouses Catlan M. McCurdy (J.D. ’11) and Sanjiv P. Laud (J.D. ’12), which was matched by the U of M Law School. The endowed scholarship will provide critical financial support to allow students of color to pursue careers in law.

• The Office for Undergraduate Education also created a systemwide fund to support undergraduate students whose identities are underrepresented at the University or undergraduate students whose studies focus on racial and social justice. You can donate at makingagift.umn.edu

• U of M–Morris established a Racial and Social Justice Scholarship to advance equity, diversity, and inclusivity on its campus. It will be awarded to students who demonstrate a commitment to anti-racism, racial justice, or social justice.

U of M Press Recommends Racial Justice Books

In June, the U of M Press suggested a collection of anti-racist books for readers that it has published. The Reading for Racial Justice collection challenges white supremacy, police violence, and unequal access to resources in Minnesota, the U.S., and the world. The collection includes:

Degrees of Freedom: The Origins of Civil Rights in Minnesota, 1865-1912, by William D. Green

Hope in the Struggle: A Memoir, by Josie R. Johnson

Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify: Essays by Carolyn Lee Holbrook

What God Is Honored Here?: Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss by and for Native Women and Women of Color, edited by Shannon Gibney and Kao Kalia Yang

Blood Sugar: Racial Pharmacology and Food Justice in Black America, by Anthony Ryan Hatch

Civil Racism: The 1992 Los Angeles Rebellion and the Crisis of Racial Burnout, by Lynn Mie Itagaki

Digitize and Punish: Racial Criminalization in the Digital Age, by Brian Jefferson

Educated in Whiteness: Good Intentions and Diversity in Schools, by Angelina E. Castagno

Prison Land: Mapping Carceral Power across Neoliberal America, by Brett Story

Survival Schools: The American Indian Movement and Community Education in the Twin Cities, by Julie L. Davis

Otto Bremer Trust Invests $1M in Mobile Health Care Initiative

The U of M recently received a $1 million gift from the Otto Bremer Trust to establish mobile health care services in communities that lack access to medical care because of COVID-19, civil unrest related to racial injustice, or economic and other factors. Initially, the program will be based at the Broadway Family Medicine Clinic in North Minneapolis and the Community-University Health Care Center (CUHCC) in the Phillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis, with geographical expansion to come over the next several months.

The mobile health initiative brings together U of M health professionals from dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, medicine, and veterinary medicine to provide a range of services, including COVID-19 testing (both viral and antibody) and education, as well as enhanced access to healthcare for populations at higher risk for COVID-19 infection. The goal is to address health care disparities occurring in neighborhoods that are segregated or that have inadequate access to community facilities because of long-standing racial and social injustices.

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