UMKC Translational Researchers

UMKC researchers in several multidisciplinary, interprofessional collaborations are achieving the Triple Aim of Healthcare: improving the patient experience, advancing the health of populations and reducing per capita costs of care.

Jannette Berkley-Patton: Health Disparities and HIV Prevention

Jannette Berkley-Patton is Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director of the UMKC Community Health Research Group. She is currently the principal investigator of a National Institute of Mental Health-funded project to develop HIV intervention strategies in African American churches. In collaboration with Calvary Community Outreach Network, she is conducting studies on HIV prevention and screening in African American churches in the Kansas City metro area and in Montgomery, Ala. Her research efforts played a critical role in the founding of the Heartland Health Network, a coalition of community partners working together to address health disparities by promoting wellness and facilitating health research in the African American community, funded by a three-year, $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. She is also a co-investigator, with the Heartland Health Network, of a National Institutes of Health-funded grant project focused on enhancing the capacity of African American churches and the ability of researchers to fully collaborate on community-based health science research. The UMKC Community Health Research Group supports collaborative community research and provides doctoral and undergraduate training in community participatory research. Her additional research interests include communication strategies to increase health-service-seeking behaviors among underserved populations.

Lynda Bonewald: Bone Biology

Lynda Bonewald is the Curators’ Professor, Lee M. and William Lefkowitz Professor, Director of the UMKC Center of Excellence in Dental and Musculoskeletal Tissues, and Director of the Bone Biology Research Program in the UMKC School of Dentistry. Bonewald is a pioneer in the study of an elusive cell embedded in mineralized bone, the osteocyte. This cell was previously thought to be inactive, but she has shown that it is a regulator of our bone health and bone strength. These cells are now a major target for development of therapeutics to prevent bone loss, treat osteoporosis and accelerate bone healing. She is principal investigator for a five-year, $8.3 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, to study the relationship between osteoporosis (loss of bone density) and sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) as people age. The research focus is on “endocrine crosstalk,” or how bone and muscle cells biochemically communicate with each other in health and disease. The UMKC investigators propose that bone can act, in effect, as an “endocrine organ” to control muscle physiology and disease.

Marco Brotto: Muscle Biology

Marco Brotto, BSN, MS, Ph.D., is the Dale and Dorothy Thompson/Missouri Endowed Professor for Nursing Research. Brotto holds joint appointments at the Schools of Nursing, Medicine and Biological Sciences and is director of the UMKC Muscle Biology Group. He also serves as Director of the Center for Biomedical Research at the College of Sciences and Technology in Salvador, Brazil. Brotto is internationally recognized as a leader in muscle physiology and intracellular calcium signaling research with a prestigious record of publications in journals such as Nature, Nature Cell Biology, Aging Cell, Aging, Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, as well as 15 years of consecutive grant funding. Since coming to UMKC, Brotto has had seven grants funded as a Principal Investigator or Co-PI, and was instrumental in the growth of the A&P program from 190 to 450 students per year.

Sarah Dallas: Mineralized Tissue Research

Sarah Dallas is a Professor in the UMKC School of Dentistry Department of Oral Biology and a member of the Center of Excellence in Dental and Musculoskeletal Tissues at UMKC. Dallas performs research in bone cell biology, with a particular interest in bone extracellular matrix proteins and their assembly, cell and matrix dynamics in bone and the mechanisms regulating the transition from osteoblast to osteocyte. Dallas directs the Microscopy Core and Histology Core Facility for the Mineralized Tissue Research Program, and is the principal investigator for a $500,000 National Institutes of Health grant that funded the purchase of a Leica TCS SP5 Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope System for the program. The system provides 3-D live cell imaging of sub-cellular structures that can be resolved down to 0.1 micrometers, approximately 1/1000th the width of a human hair.

Peter Koulen: Vision

Peter Koulen is the Professor and Felix and Carmen Sabates Missouri Endowed Chair in Vision Research at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, and is the Director of Basic Research at the Vision Research Center, a collaboration of several UMKC schools and Kansas City medical centers working to better diagnose, prevent and treat eye disease and vision disorders through translational research. His research aims for new therapies for protecting the retina and optic nerve in chronic degenerative eye disease. This degeneration is one of the leading causes of loss of quality of life and productivity in the U.S. and worldwide. The research goal is to develop drug therapies that will be both preventative and therapeutic, complementing existing treatments.

John Spertus: Heart Disease and Patient Outcomes

John Spertus is the Lauer/Missouri Endowed Chair and Professor of Medicine at UMKC and the Medical Director of Outcomes Research at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute. Spertus, collaborating with other UMKC researchers, Washington University, Harvard University, the University of Kansas Medical Center and the University of Colorado, discovered that Americans might be spending hundreds of millions of dollars more than necessary on drug-coated stents that provided no more medical benefit than less expensive metal stents that keep narrowed heart arteries open after angioplasty. Spertus’ outcomes research has led to the creation of Health Outcomes Sciences, an Overland Park-based biotechnology startup that could become a large regional employer to further develop Kansas City’s life sciences economy. Spertus’ research focuses on methods for assessing patients’ health outcomes, measuring health care quality and the use of information technology to guide medical decision-making so that treatment can be safer, more cost-effective, evidence-based and patient-centered. He developed the Seattle Angina Questionnaire and the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire, both of which have been translated into more than 50 languages and are recognized as the gold standards for measuring patients’ symptoms, function and quality of life in coronary artery disease and heart failure.

Charles Van Way III: Shock Trauma Research

Charles Van Way is the UMKC School of Medicine Sosland/Missouri Endowed Chair of Trauma Research, Professor of Surgery and Director of the UMKC Shock Trauma Research Center. The Center is engaged in research to develop new treatment strategies to reduce the amount of cell death that occurs following shock. Besides studies in shock, the research programs of the Center include basic studies to understand the molecular events that allow cells of the immune system to “recognize” the presence of microbes and microbial products, and to communicate that information to white blood cells. Van Way’s research centers on hemorrhagic (bleeding-driven) shock, and explore the basic mechanisms of cell injury during hemorrhagic shock and resuscitation, and to identify changes which produce long-term damage. In the past several years, his research team has carried out basic and clinical studies of the genomic response to shock and injury, and has developed several potential therapeutic agents for the treatment of hemorrhagic shock. Currently, his team is exploring the mechanisms by which cells adjust to the low-oxygen environments which characterize septic and hemorrhagic shock.