November Highlights

Joan KjaerInternational Programs at the University of Iowa began a new monthly television and radio series called WorldCanvass. The program, hosted by Joan Kjaer and created in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol, brings together scholars, researchers, artists, musicians, and innovative thinkers from all parts of the UI campus and beyond to make a substantial contribution to public discourse on the most difficult issues of the day.


The University Hygienic Laboratory announced that Miss Iowa 2009, Anne Michael Langguth, would serve as its Environmental and Public Health Laboratory Ambassador to bring awareness to a looming workforce shortage in the public health sector.

A new study by University of Iowa researchers showed that carbon dioxide increases brain acidity, which in turn activates a brain protein that plays an important role in fear and anxiety behavior. The study, published in the journal Cell, offered new possibilities for understanding the biological basis of panic and anxiety disorders in general, and suggested new approaches for treating these conditions.

Researcher working in labUniversity of Iowa researchers received 11 prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) Challenge Grants to investigate areas of inquiry accorded the highest priority by the NIH. Funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the grants focused on specific knowledge gaps, scientific opportunities, new technologies, data generation, or research methods that would benefit from financial support to rapidly and significantly advance fields of knowledge.

To better understand—and ultimately prevent—birth defects involving the face and skull, a new project involving The University of Iowa began creating a first-ever encyclopedic database on how the faces of healthy children develop and what goes wrong to cause defects. The effort, called FaceBase, is a five-year initiative funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health. Jeff Murray, professor in the UI Carver College of Medicine, as well as the Colleges of Dentistry, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Public Health, is the hub's co-principal investigator.

Dale Eric Wurster, professor of pharmaceutics and translational therapeutics in the College of Pharmacy, was named the recipient of the 2009 Research Achievement Award in Manufacturing Science & Engineering. This award is among the highest conferred by the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

Pharmacist compounding a prescriptionThe University of Iowa College of Pharmacy joined a national consortium that had received a two-year, $652,000 Food and Drug Administration contract to develop an educational program for staff in the FDA Office of Pharmaceutical Science. Lee Kirsch, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences and experimental therapeutics in the UI College of Pharmacy, is the project manager.

A University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Department of Political Science found that as the United States maintains involvement in a wide range of international issues, most Americans would rather see the United Nations at the helm. A striking majority of respondents said the United Nations is better suited than the United States to handle three major international matters: peacekeeping (73 percent), aid to developing nations (72 percent), and human rights (59 percent).

The School of Social Work in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was selected for a $4.75 million federal cooperative agreement to establish a national center of child welfare expertise in in-home services. In-home services ensure the safety and well-being of children and youths in their homes, prevent placement or re-entry into foster care, and preserve, support, and stabilize families. The cooperative agreement between UI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, Children's Bureau, will provide $950,000 each year for five years to support the center's work as the nation's primary provider of technical assistance and training regarding effective and promising alternatives to out-of-home placement.

Jimmy Reyes

Our People

A graduate student breaks down cultural barriers, uniting patients and health care providers in common cause.

Jimmy Reyes traces his drive to foster communication and community to his grandmother’s influence.

“She taught me the importance of knowing your place in the world and what good you can do in it,” says Reyes, today a doctoral student in the University of Iowa College of Nursing. That service ethic inspires his focus on helping health care transcend differences in language and culture.

Reyes was born in Lima, Peru, the eldest of three. Fleeing violence and political turmoil, his family sent him to Chile and the care of his grandmother, Violeta. A nurse by training, Violeta shared stories from her work with the nuns at a local church, how they would visit underserved areas and provide what care they could.

After completing high school in Chile, Reyes joined his parents in Florida. He moved to Iowa to continue his education, starting at Kirkwood Community College in 2000, then transferring to the University for a BS in nursing.

While volunteering as a nursing assistant in a surgical cancer unit, he noticed that bilingual staff were fairly uncommon, and that patients’ family members weren’t always available to translate. Many patients spoke only Spanish—the intimidation that any patient might feel in the clinical environment was compounded for them.

The unfamiliar setting and communication barrier complicated pain management, especially when other cultural factors intervened. “I understood that some patients wouldn’t readily share their discomfort with someone,” Reyes says. “They know that they should tough it out for their family’s sake—the idea of machismo.”

Reyes responded to the problem creatively. He sought help from a friend in the Spanish department and after studying treatment options and pain assessment tools in both English and Spanish, developed a system of six cards with phonetically spelled terms and illustrations to help nurses characterize patients’ pain.

Nurses used the cards to ask patients about their pain levels, locations, and factors that made the pain better or worse. From there, they could provide proper treatment.

“It was pretty exciting when the nurses and patients responded to it,” Reyes says. The success prompted him to develop Spanish-language binders that offered patients information on treatment options and what they might expect in the unit.

After graduating in 2004, Reyes returned to the University for a nurse practitioner license, teaching a small class at the College of Nursing and working with Proteus, a Des Moines-based nonprofit agency. Proteus worked with Iowa farmers who provided room and board for migrant workers coming up from Mexico.

The workers detasseled corn 12 hours a day. Reyes helped provide them with basic health care a few evenings a week.

“The workers faced different allergens, problems from heat and other ailments,” Reyes says. “Often they wouldn’t ask for a glass of water if they needed it. It’s part of the culture to put your head down and work hard.”

In time, Reyes gained the workers’ trust. With help from various institutional donors in Iowa City, he raised enough money to establish a temporary migrant health clinic. Later, he brought his students out to get some experience.

“They would be the primary caregivers, and I just hung out and helped as a interpreter if they needed me,” Reyes says. “It was professional work, but offered a social networking aspect that I think was very beneficial to all of them.”