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Senior Briyana Chisholm’s summer research was on high mobility group proteins
Senior Briyana Chisholm’s summer research was on high mobility group proteins that enhance transcription of proto-oncogenes — genes that are typically involved in cancer.

Home for the health professions

Photo by Wenbo Fan

Center for Health Profession Studies cuts the ribbon on a new home in Pearson Hall

After several moves, the University of Delaware Center for Health Profession Studies (CHPS) now has a permanent home. Center director David Barlow, College of Health Sciences’ Dean Kathleen Matt, College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean George Watson and former Provost Domenico Grasso cut the ribbon on the revamped space in Pearson Hall.

“It’s been a real joy to watch the evolution of this effort,” said Watson. “This started from a realization that pre-med is not just about being a biology major. This center can have a big impact on launching our students into their [medical] careers.”

UD College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean George Watson, former Provost Domenico Grasso, Center director David Barlow, College of Health Sciences’ Dean Kathleen Matt, cut the ribbon on the revamped space in Pearson Hall.
Left to right: UD College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean George Watson, former Provost Domenico Grasso, Center Director David Barlow, College of Health Sciences’ Dean Kathleen Matt, cut the ribbon on the revamped space in Pearson Hall.

Matt said she sees CHPS as an opportunity to transform healthcare — nationally and in the state. She mentioned the Delaware Institute of Medical Education & Research Program (DIMER), which provides opportunities for Delawareans to obtain a high-quality medical education.

“It has always been challenging for residents of Delaware to achieve a seat in medical school. Having the DIMER program has helped tremendously,” explained Matt. “But the development of the Center for Health Profession Studies under the leadership of Dave Barlow has changed the landscape. With the help of this center and the programs they offer, our students are now much more competitive — achieving placement in some of the nation’s top medical schools.”

CHPS helps students achieve success in career areas or roles, including medicine, dentistry, optometry, podiatry, physician assistant, advanced practice registered nurse, pharmacy, physical therapy and occupational therapy. The center advises 2,500 UD students each year.

One such student is medical diagnostics major Briyana Chisholm. Over the summer, she interned in the Resar Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, studying high mobility group proteins that enhance transcription of proto-oncogenes — genes that are typically involved in cancer. She specifically studied the under-examined HMGA2 protein.

“The protein has been implicated in a subset of aggressive cancers, primarily metastatic, and has been shown to correlate with the progression of the cancer,” said Chisholm, who has her sights set on medical school. “So we created a cell line that overexpresses the protein because we wanted to see what other genes are upregulated or downregulated when HMGA2 is upregulated or overexpressed. We found a lot of proteins implicated in other types of cancers.”

Grateful students

The pursuit of a medical or health career is a daunting process. Many of the graduate programs and professional tracks are notoriously competitive. The sage guidance from CHPS is greatly appreciated by UD undergraduates.

“The center is an integral part of my pre-medical journey during my undergraduate studies,” said senior Daniel Courtney, who hopes to become a clinical physician. “Dr. Barlow, Laura Pawlowski and the rest of the staff have provided invaluable advice. I am extremely grateful for their continued support and dedication to helping future students pursue their passion for medicine.”

Chisholm added, “I would not be where I am today without Dr. Barlow, Mrs. Pawlowski, Dr. Lehman and the entire Center for Health Profession Studies team.”

Chemistry major Matthew Wittstein said CHPS “has not only provided me endless opportunities, but also an exceptional support group. Whether it is tutoring, advice or general support, I know I can always depend on the center.”

Barlow’s involvement with pre-med programs pre-dates CHPS. He advised pre-med students for the past few decades and become formally involved in 2006 as a member of the Health Professions Advisory Committee (previously HSAEC).

Long-range plans

A critical need for cultural, social and economic diversity in the health professions is one of the grand challenges facing healthcare. So CHPS focuses on training students from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds to become the future healthcare professionals and research scientists.

“These are the leaders who will develop creative methods and treatments — shaping public health policy and practice,” Barlow said. “That results in improved health and wellness for all.”

He hopes to foster engagement of students not just in academic and clinical settings, but in service, global internships, living learning communities, student organizations and other out of classroom experiences that supplement formal education.

“These opportunities will allow UD students to stand out among the tens of thousands of students who apply to medical schools and other healthcare profession programs.”


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