On the Pulse
Legendary UVA player and South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley (Col ’92) teamed up with UVA women’s basketball head coach Amaka “Mox” Agugua-Hamilton and retired head coach and Women's Basketball Hall of Famer Debbie Ryan to deliver a My Special Aflac Duck® to five patients at UVA Health Children’s last June. According to Aflac Inc.'s press release, the cuddly social robot is a free-of-charge resource the company designed to comfort children over 3 with pediatric cancer and sickle cell disease. UVA Health Children’s Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Division chief Michael Engel, MD, said, “Spending a lot of time in the hospital can be overwhelming for our patients and emotional for their families. My Special Aflac Duck will surely bring happiness to children during their treatments and help comfort them at home.”
SPORTS LOVERS UNITE
Last spring, Tyler Prusik, Jake Woskobunik, and Jackson Lang raised money for UVA Comprehensive Cancer Center with help from the NFL. The three middle schoolers and sports enthusiasts were inspired by a classmate’s older brother battling leukemia to design a school project in his honor. They wrote letters to all 32 NFL teams seeking autographed memorabilia to auction for their cause. Eight of those teams—the Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, and Minnesota Vikings—responded with gear ranging from branded pens and bracelets to signed player photos, footballs, and helmets. The trio donated all $1,000 in proceeds to benefit UVA Health cancer programs.
INVESTMENT OF CONFIDENCE
The Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation, one of the largest private funders of research into the deadliest type of brain cancer, known as glioblastoma multiforme, issued grants to all three UVA Health scientists who applied in 2023. Natasha Sheybani, PhD, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, Hui Li, PhD, a Harrison Distinguished Professor of Pathology, and Roger Abounader, MD, PhD, a professor of microbiology, immunology and cancer biology, each received a $600,0000 Translational Adult Glioma Award. Three grants for three applications is a rare success rate for a single institution. This research will contribute to the identification of drug strategies for the Ivy Brain Tumor Center’s early-phase pharmacodynamic- and pharmacokinetic-driven clinical trials.
FROM TRANSPLANT TO TRIATHLON
Richmond area resident R.J. Redstrom is back to swimming, cycling, and running after receiving the region’s first COVID-induced, double-lung transplant at UVA Health. As UVA Today reported this past summer, Redstrom had completed an estimated 157 triathlons over 13 years before he became seriously ill with COVID in August 2020. After exhausting all available treatment options, he was lying in Henrico Doctors’ Hospital near death when a physician determined he was a candidate for the novel double transplant. UVA Health pulmonologist Hannah Mannem, MD, and transplant surgeon Mark Roeser, MD, stepped up to lead the groundbreaking procedure. Redstrom completed his first post-transplant triathlon in June 2023 and another in September, cheered on by his UVA Health patient care team.