New Discoveries in Head and Neck Cancers

Shutting down inflammation within the body, and then harnessing the immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells, could provide the one-two punch needed to effectively treat head and neck cancers, according to researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Research into the pivotal role played by the inflammatory molecule inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in promoting cancer growth and immune evasion is being led by Andrew G. Sikora, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor and Director of Head and Neck Translational Research in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery.

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First Generation Scholars

In 2008, a first-year medical student named Jennifer Ling developed a program called the First Generation College Application Essay Writing and Scholarship Program, under the sponsorship of Students for Equal Opportunity in Medicine (SEOM). There were six students in the program, all of whom enrolled seeking help with their college application essays.

Three years later, Jennifer’s program merged with the Mount Sinai Scholars Program, a tutoring program originally sponsored by Mount Sinai’s Department of Health Education. The combined program was renamed the First Generation Scholars Program, and continues as an SEOM-sponsored program. Since then, the program has grown to include more than sixty students and mentors.

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Medical Students Celebrate Match Day

This year’s Match Day event—held Friday, March 15, in the Annenberg West Lobby—reflected the accomplishments of the Class of 2013, with well more than half of 139 students at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai matching to residency programs at the nation’s top 20 academic medical centers.

Thirty-six students will be starting residencies at medical centers that include Massachusetts General Hospital; Yale-New Haven Hospital; Johns Hopkins University Hospital; Duke University Medical Center; Vanderbilt University Medical Center; Stanford University Medical Center; and the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center.

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Leadership in Scientific Education

The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences has been training many of our nation’s finest scientists for more than four decades and inspiring them to translate their discoveries into effective treatments for human diseases.

Today, Mount Sinai is a leader in bringing “big data” to biomedical sciences, both in our laboratories and in our classrooms. By connecting with the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology, the Graduate School has developed innovative courses that teach students how to use the new frontier of computational genomics in the laboratory setting. Many of our most devastating diseases are due to complex changes in our genes and how they interact with our environment. Our students learn how to embrace this complexity.

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Icahn School of Medicine Restructures Admissions Criteria

At a time of unprecedented advancements in technology and science, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has taken a bold step in restructuring its medical school admissions criteria to attract gifted medical students from a wide range of backgrounds through its new FlexMed program, which is the first of its kind in the nation.

Starting next fall, half of each medical school class will be guaranteed early acceptance to Mount Sinai during the sophomore year of college without having to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), or a traditional premed course load, under the school’s new FlexMed program. The students will come from majors as diverse as computational science and engineering, the social sciences, and genetics and molecular and cell biology.

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New Graduate Courses in Public Health

The Graduate Program in Public Health at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai continues to expand its curriculum with new specialty tracks, an advanced certificate program, and a new name—it was formerly The Master of Public Health Program.

The public health program, which enrolls 60 new students each year, is part of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Three new courses of study include Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Health Care Management, which complement the tracks that existed previously: Global Health, Health Promotion & Disease Prevention, Outcomes Research, and Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The courses are designed for students who want a strong foundation in community-based research, and experience in building population-based studies for disease prevention and health promotion.

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Brain Awareness Fair

Have you ever had fun getting dizzy by spinning around? Ever thought of what ears have to do with getting dizzy? Ears are for hearing, right?

When you have a stuffy nose, whatever you eat seems bland and tasteless. What does your nose have to do with taste? We taste food with our tongues and our noses are for smelling, right?

These are just a few of the many complex concepts of how the brain and other parts of our bodies coordinate to keep functioning. Through easy-to-understand demonstrations and activities, these and several other complexities of the brain were adeptly simplified and communicated to our young visitors at Mount Sinai by members of Sinai Neuroscience Outreach Program (SNOP) and their volunteers during the first “Brain Awareness Fair” on March 12th, 2013.

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Breaking Through Autism

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has found that 1 in 88 people are affected by autism spectrum disorders (ASD), a disorder four times more common in boys than in girls. At the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment, we are dedicated to discovering the biological causes of ASD and developing breakthrough treatments. Through molecular genetics, model systems, and experimental therapeutics, we strive to translate scientific research into optimal community care.

Our understanding of the genetic basis of autism and related conditions has changed recently. Based on discoveries made by large genetic consortia including the Autism Sequencing Consortium (ASC) which we lead, we now know that autism can be conceived of as having multiple independent causes, where in many cases the cause can be largely attributed to a specific genetic mutation. The ASC expects to identify half of all ASD genes in the next several years, leading to better diagnosis and treatment.

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Is Marijuana Harmless?

Marijuana (Cannabis sativa) is the illicit drug most commonly used by teenagers in the United States. Although cannabis is not as addictive as other substances, such as heroin and cocaine, cannabis-dependent individuals still greatly outnumber those reporting dependence on other illicit drugs and the number of people seeking treatment for cannabis dependence continues to increase yearly. Despite these facts, there is a growing perception, particularly in adolescents and young adults, that cannabis is ‘harmless’ and there is currently much debate as to whether cannabis should be legalized. Unfortunately, most of the discussion and policies being made regarding cannabis have been done without significant consideration of scientific data. Our studies directly address the question regarding the long-term impact on the brain as a consequence of cannabis exposure during adolescence, a period of dynamic brain development.

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Rapid Treatment for the Depressed Brain

Is it possible to rapidly elevate the depressed mood? This has been a pressing question over the past 50 years because classic antidepressants, such as Prozac, are known to take weeks to reach clinical efficacy; combining medications to enhance antidepressant outcomes may take even longer, generally months. Mount Sinai has put forth enormous efforts to develop rapid treatments for major depressive disorder. Currently, ketamine treatment and deep brain stimulation are being investigated in clinical research and trials for treatment-resistant depressed patients at Mount Sinai.

Mount Sinai faculty has also been dedicated to the discovery of novel antidepressant treatments. As a faculty member in the Department of Pharmacology & Systems Therapeutics, as well as the Department of Neuroscience and Friedman Brain Institute, I am one of the neuroscientists working to reveal new drug and brain stimulation targets in animal models for the rapid treatment of depression.

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