• Not All Gifted Children are from Affluent Families
    September 19, 2019

    A recent Wall Street Journal article explores the lack of diversity in advanced placement and honors programs in schools. Despite increases in school spending over the past half-century, the U.S. Department of Education reports that nearly two-thirds of students score below the proficient level on national reading tests, and large socioeconomic disparities persist. In spite of recent criticism, the Advanced Placement program has experienced rapid expansion since its inception. By last year, nearly 40 subjects were available to some 2.8 million students enrolled in more than 22,000 high schools. The downside of this expansion is that many low-income and minority students who complete the courses don’t score well enough on the exams to receive college credit. Chester Finn, former head of the Fordham Institute, a think tank that specializes in education policy, believes the proper response to underwhelming test scores is better preparation for disadvantaged students who enroll, and he commends the AP program for maintaining high standards. “If we care about upward mobility, these are the kids we should be trying to help,” said Mr. Finn. “Who’s going to be the scientists and inventors and entrepreneurs of tomorrow? Are they just going to come from the already privileged, or are they going to incorporate the equally smart kids who didn’t start off with so many advantages?” Mr. Finn considers much of the criticism leveled at gifted-and-talented programs misplaced; our education system should be able simultaneously to “raise the ceiling” for those who are exceptionally able and “lift the floor” for others who are struggling.

  • Broad Institute Collaborative Study Reveals Genetic Alterations Linked to Cancer Drug Resistance
    September 10, 2019

    A new study from a group of researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), IBM Research, and other organizations compared the results of liquid and tissue biopsies from patients who were treated for gastrointestinal cancer but developed drug resistance. It revealed that liquid biopsies, a new method for sampling tumors, provide a more complete picture of the patient’s genetic diversity and how drug resistance in tumors evolves. "Remarkably, we found that nearly every patient we analyzed had developed not just one, but multiple drug resistance mechanisms simultaneously, and this may be more common than we previously thought," said Gad Getz, director of the Cancer Genome Computational Analysis Group at the Broad and the Paul C. Zamecnik Chair in Oncology at the MGH Cancer Center. " The study also suggests possible molecular mechanisms underlying drug resistance, which could point the way to new and more personalized therapeutics. The study is part of a five-year collaboration between the Broad Institute and IBM Research to analyze tumors before and after the onset of drug resistance, in order to discover underlying mechanisms driving resistance. The collaboration grew out of a cancer drug resistance and blood biopsy project supported by the Gerstner Family Foundation.

  • University of Albany Unveils New Pantry for Students, Faculty and Staff
    September 5, 2019

    University of Albany officials held a ribbon-cutting Wednesday at the university's first on-campus food bank, the Purple Pantry, which is available to all students, staff and faculty members. At the ribbon-cutting, UAlbany Provost Carol Kim cited studies indicating that 50 percent of American college students are food insecure. "Think about how challenging it is for students to be academically successful when they are hungry and thinking about where their next meal is coming from," she said. A university-wide survey revealed at least 30 percent of students are skipping meals to stretch their food budget. Since the pantry's soft launch earlier this year, more than 400 students have stopped in seeking food. "We anticipate there will be a surge in individuals coming through in the fall," said Luke A. Rumsey, UAlbany's associate director of Off Campus Student Services.

  • 2019 Gerstner Career Development Awardees Seek to Optimize Rheumatoid Arthritis and Breast Cancer Treatments

    The Mayo Clinic recently announced this year’s recipients of the Gerstner Family Career Development Awards: Dr. Elena Myasoedova, a rheumatologist at Mayo Clinic's Minnesota campus and Dr. Bhavika Patel, a radiologist at Mayo's Arizona campus. Their focus on creating tools to identify optimal treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and breast cancer, respectively. Using artificial intelligence, Dr. Myasoedova is building an algorithm that can predict an individual's response to methotrexate, the most commonly used rheumatoid arthritis medication. The algorithm would enable patients to more effectively evaluate treatment options as methotrexate is ineffective in 30% to 40% of patients and must be taken for months before doctors can determine if it's working. Dr. Patel's research team is utilizing biomarkers to more precisely determine which additional treatments would benefit an individual breast cancer patient. “Ultimately, the goal is that these biomarkers can inform personalized therapies, to improve breast cancer patients' quality of life and avoid unnecessary treatments," says Dr. Patel. Both researchers seek to apply data centric approaches to medical care, sparing patients unnecessary complications and providing enhanced disease treatment.

  • Gerstner Regenerative Medicine Initiative Improves Tracking of Patient Outcomes in Clinical Trials

    Dr. Shane Shapiro, head of the Gerstner Regenerative Medicine Initiative at the Mayo Clinic, recently developed a digital platform to track patient experience and patient outcomes for regenerative medicine procedures. The Regenerative Evidence-Based Outcomes Registry (REBO) as serves as a digital learning platform that can show prospective patients outcome data in terms of effective treatments based on clinical conditions and other factors, helping guide patient decision-making. “Unlike traditional outcomes registries, we include additional elements that incorporate ethics and social information related to health outcomes of these innovative therapies,” says Dr. Shapiro. Dr. Shapiro and his team intend to combine their real-world data with ongoing clinical studies to advance regenerative medicine therapeutics. In addition to the REBO registry, Dr. Shapiro, through the Gerstner Regenerative Medicine Initiative, is spearheading a study to develop evidence-based best practices for dosing and frequency of regenerative therapies for knee osteoarthritis. In all, the Gerstner Philanthropies Grant supports five initiatives across Mayo Clinic’s Arizona, Florida and Minnesota sites.