New Members to Join the University of Minnesota's Medical Discovery Teams

The University of Minnesota Medical School is proud to announce several new team members to its Medical Discovery Teams (MDT).

The Optical Imaging and Brain Science Medical Discovery Team has hired Gordon Smith, Ph.D. He will join the team as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neuroscience focused on Imaging across Multiple Scales of Neuronal Organization: Circuit Based Approaches to Brain Function. Smith comes to the University of Minnesota from the renowned Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience and is known for his work investigating the structure and function of neural networks in the developing visual cortex. The Optical Imaging and Brain Science MDT looks to center on the development and application of cutting-edge, innovative technologies, such as in vivo multiphoton based microscopy for imaging neuronal activity and dynamics. As part of the team, Dr. Smith will continue to investigate the early development of visual cortical circuits, focusing on the role of spontaneously-generated neural activity in patterning cortical circuits. Smith joins Dr. Prakash Kara as the second member of the Optical Imaging and Brian Science Medical Discovery Team.

The Medical Discovery Team on Addiction also has two new additions. Jocelyn Richard has accepted a faculty position in the Department of Neuroscience. Dr. Richard has unique expertise in studying the distinct pathways in the brain that drive an individual’s motivation towards positive outcomes and how these pathways are impacted by addictive drugs and stress. Her research is destined to provide insights into problems related to initial substance abuse. Dr. Richard is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at Johns Hopkins University. She holds a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award given to top young scientists in their field. As part of the Medical Discovery Team, Dr. Richard will conduct research to gain a better understanding of how different neural circuits within the brain regulate various motivational behaviors. This research will address mechanisms that can both diminish the addictive properties as drugs, as well as increase the ability to fend off urges to continuously abuse them.

Benjamin Saunders, Ph.D. has also accepted a faculty position in the Department of Neuroscience and is now a member of the Medical Discovery Team (MDT) on Addiction. Dr. Saunders studies how the brain regions that regulate motivation are affected by drug addiction. By understanding the changes that occur to these circuits following the abuse of addictive drugs, we can hope to target and reverse these changes, ultimately transforming an ‘addicted brain’ to one that is not addicted to drugs. He is a currently a post-doctoral research fellow at Johns Hopkins University. He holds both a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, given to top young scientists in their field, and has also received a highly prestigious NARSAD Young Investigator Grant. As part of the Medical Discovery Team, Dr. Saunders will conduct research to address the problems addicts face when they are unable to stop taking drugs, even though the negative consequences are severe.

Dr. Saunders and Dr. Richard will also join the University of Minnesota in June 2018.

Kristen Jacklin, Ph.D., will join the Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team focused on Rural and American Indian health as the Associate Director. She was trained as a medical anthropologist with a focus on Indigenous health at McMaster University and is known for bringing a social science and health equity perspective to her teaching and research. Kristen also leads and collaborates on several research projects which aim to improve chronic disease care and outcomes for Indigenous peoples in Canada, including investigations on age-related dementias and national and community-based projects on culturally safe diabetes care. As part of the Medical Discovery Team, Dr. Jacklin will continue to build on her research surrounding Indigenous dementia.

Wayne Warry, Ph.D., will also join the Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team, acting as the Director of Rural Health Initiatives. He joins the University of Minnesota from the Laurentian University, where he teaches and acts as Director of the Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research. He is a medical anthropologist whose research concerns Indigenous health and healthcare, both on and off-reserve in Northeastern Ontario. With Dr. Kristen Jacklin, Associate Professor, Human Sciences, at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, he has recently pursued multi-sited research concerning the cultural construction of Alzheimer's and Related Dementias and caregiving in Indigenous communities in Ontario. As part of the Medical Discovery Team, Dr. Warry will expand his research on rural health.

Dr. Jacklin and Dr. Warry will join the University of Minnesota August 2017. Dr. J. Neil Henderson was hired as the Executive Director of the Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team in late 2016.

In 2014, with the support of Governor Dayton and legislature, Medical Discovery Teams were created to support the Medical School's efforts to increase national prestige by attracting and retaining world-class faculty, staff, students, and residents. As well as, achieve the state's goals of improving patient and population health, lowering costs, and improving health care experiences. Medical Discovery Teams work to advance research and care surrounding critical issues that affect our state and will change health and health care on a global level. Each interdisciplinary team is focused on solving complex health problems, in collaboration with current University of Minnesota faculty working in the areas of Addiction, Biology of Aging, Optical Imaging and Brain Science and Rural & American Indian Health Disparities. Through cutting-edge research and discovery, this State of Minnesota funded initiative aims to address the state's health workforce needs.

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