February 2018 Alumni Newsletter


Melanie Simpson was recently appointed Chair of Molecular and Structural Biochemistry at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. Simpson received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics at the U of MN. From 1998-2002 she was a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Jim McCarthy. After her training with McCarthy, she was on faculty in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Her research focus is the biochemistry of hyaluronan metabolism in castration-resistant prostate cancer. "My postdoctoral training with Dr. Jim McCarthy was instrumental in setting me up for success in an independent career," she said. "He allowed me the freedom to drive my own projects and encouraged me to develop strong grantsmanship, research, teaching, and mentoring skills. It could not have been a more valuable learning experience."

LMP Pathobiology PhD (1986) Bob McCormack retired in early February as head of Biomarker Translation, Disease Interception Accelerator, at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. He writes to his friends and colleagues: "I never imagined when I started 20 years ago that the road would be paved with so many great friendships. Thank you for all of your collaboration, help, guidance, and especially those great friendships over the years." 

Faculty Highlights

Powell: Toward competency-based medical education (CBME)

LMP professor and Dean Emerita Deborah Powell is the lead author of "Toward Competency-Based Medical Education" published in the January 4th edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. In their review, Powell and coauthor Carol Carraccio of the American Board of Pediatrics writes that competency-based medical education (CBME) "reconceives medical training by recognizing that not all students or trainees master all necessary skills at the same pace." Rather than a medical school or residency class proceeding through medical education as a single, undifferentiated group, CBME focuses on all trainees demonstrating the competencies required for caring for a population by means of what they term "time-variable transitions from training to practice." Demonstration of practice competencies constitutes the key benchmarks or milestones, not time in the training program.

Powell is well known as a medical education innovator through her pioneering Education in Pediatrics Across the Continuum (EPAC) project, now in its eighth year.


Li and colleagues show that the B vitamin biotin B7 can interfere with diagnostic tests 

LMP assistant professor Danni Li's study of biotin (JAMA 2017:318 (12) 1150-1160) has earned national coverage due to the FDA issued safety warning that biotin or "super vitamin" in dietary supplements can interfere with common lab tests.

News coverage appeared in Consumer Reports, WebMD, CAP Today, and StarTribune among others. Study co-authors include Amy Karger and Tony Killeen. See the StarTribune story.

McKenna receives American Association of Blood Banks President's Award

LMP Professor David McKenna recently received a 2017 President's Award at the annual American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) meeting in San Diego. This award recognizes McKenna and others for their leadership and perseverance in developing cellular therapy expertise in the AABB. "Their tremendous devotion to the association and visionary approach has brought cellular therapies to AABB members and has brought cellular therapy members to AABB," read the citation.

Two New Faculty Join LMP

LMP welcomed two new faculty on board last fall, one in dermatopathology and one in cancer research. 

Alessio Giubellino, MD, PhD, is an anatomic pathologist and dermatopathologist who received his MD from the University of Turin School of Medicine and his doctorate from the University of Pisa School of Medicine. His research in Italy and at the National Cancer Institute laid the foundation for his current studies of signaling pathways in melanoma. The goal of these studies is to develop predictive biomarkers and combination therapies for the disease. 

Dorraya El-Ashry, PhD, is an experimental pathologist who earned her doctorate at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. She studies the tumor microenvironment and mechanisms of metastasis in breast cancer. Her current work is focused on the role of cancer-associated fibroblasts in the tumor microenvironment, circulation, and metastasis. 


When Ellis Benson, the first head of a combined Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, recruited the department's initial core of basic science researchers, Andreas Rosenberg was one of his first hires. Rosenberg was a biochemist, born in Estonia, escaped during WWII to Finland, and earned his PhD and DSci in Biochemistry from the University of Uppsala in Sweden. He became part of a large NIH funded Hemoglobin Red-Cell Program project that included PIs from the Departments of LMP, Chemistry, Medicine and the University of Puerto Rico. Rosenberg was also interested in the arts, notably the Guthrie Theatre and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. He passed away on August 29. The department donated a memorial to the Elisabeth and Andreas Rosenberg Theatre Scholarship at the University of Minnesota.