1. Five alumni recently won regional Emmy awards of excellence for their work in television this past year. Among the accomplished group is Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Hall of Fame inductee Marla Weech ’79.
2. UCF partnered with Orange County Fire Rescue to launch two lifesaving apps, PulsePoint Respond and PulsePoint AED, late last week. The apps support first-responding agencies like Orange County Fire Rescue by encouraging CPR-trained citizens to respond to sudden cardiac arrest incidents as emergency crews are en route. Both applications are available as free downloads on mobile devices.
3. SAVE THE DATE for UCF Celebrates The Arts. The university’s annual showcase of student and faculty presentations will return April 7-14 to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando. The eight days of music, performances and visual displays are open to the public for free. For a sneak peek of the lineup of events, click here.
4. ICYMI, students from UCF’s College of Nursing delivered one-of-a-kind teddy bears to hospitalized children to make the week of Valentine’s Day a little sweeter. Although the college is finished taking orders for this year’s distribution of bears, it intends to make this an annual event. Take one look at this picture, and you’ll see why:
5. The College of Sciences Distinguished Speaker Series resumes this week with a talk on “2015 Homicide Rise and the ‘Ferguson Effect.’” The event, which is open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Tuscawilla Country Club (1500 Winter Springs Blvd., Winter Springs, FL 32708).
Seven years ago, when UCF music Professor Ayako Yonetani played the final movement from the Violin Partita in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, she had no idea that she’d also composed a love story for UCF neuroscience Professor Kiminobu Sugaya. Now, the pair teaches the Music and the Brain class in The Burnett Honors College.
Thanks to a special harness system, UCF’s new, first-of-its-kind therapy cafe allows traumatic brain injury survivors an opportunity to take the next step in their recovery.
A collaboration between the University of Central Florida and Florida Hospital awarded its first $20,000 seed grant to a team that will study the fundamentals of cough in patients with head and neck cancer.
This month also marks the 10th anniversary of DirectConnect to UCF, which guarantees students’ admission to the university with an associate’s degree from one of the university’s partner colleges. Happy anniversary, DirectConnect!
UCF’s teams of cybersecurity experts cleaned up at another cyber competition, bringing home more than $25,000 in prize money and besting Ivy Leaguers from Yale and Brown universities, the Air Force Academy and others. Go Knights!
On Friday, Light Up UCF returned to campus for its eighth season. The family-friendly activities — including ice skating, rides and holiday attractions — continue through Jan. 3.
UCF alumna puts on her dancing shoes to help raise money for nursing students
By Angie Lewis, ’03
When Joyce DeGennaro, ’03, decided to apply for the College of Nursing’s accelerated B.S.N. program, she needed some assistance to help ease the financial burden of pursuing another degree. After all, she was a little older, and had a 6-month-old baby and mortgage at the time. That’s when she discovered the Femmes de Coeur scholarship, for which she applied and was awarded, helping her to pay for tuition and books, and graduate without student-loan debt in 2009.
Femmes de Coeur (Women of Heart) is an Orlando-based, not-for-profit volunteer organization that regularly hosts fundraising events to support numerous local community projects, including nursing scholarships at UCF, Valencia College, Seminole State College and the Florida Hospital’s Adventist University of Health Sciences.
Becoming a nurse wasn’t DeGennaro’s original plan, however. She grew up thinking she wanted to become a counselor or forensic psychologist, which is why she earned her first UCF bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in criminal justice, in 2003. But, it was her work in Florida Hospital’s inpatient placement program that inspired her to go back to school to become a nurse.
Forever thankful for her opportunity to follow her passion, DeGennaro recently had the opportunity to participate in Femmes de Coeur’s annual dance competition, “Let Us Entertain You,” which raises money for exact scholarship that helped put her through nursing school.
She had no previous dance experience before the competition, but was in good hands with her 19-year dancing veteran and partner, Tony Sterling. The pair practiced twice a week since March, and took the stage June 14 in the ballroom at Church Street Station, dancing the West Coast Swing to Florida-Georgia Line’s “Cruise.” While they didn’t take the top prize, they did place third, which means about $10,000 in nursing scholarships for UCF.
“It was my way of being able to give back to something that helped me.” DeGennaro says.
She also gives back daily, in a different way — helping to educate future nurses in the College of Nursing, where she was hired as a permanent nursing instructor in January.
Her journey from practical to practicum began while she was working as a nurse in the multisystem-transplant ICU at Florida Hospital South, where she became a certified preceptor and discovered a love for teaching. So, once again, DeGennaro re-enrolled at UCF — this time in the nurse educator master’s program, from which she graduated in 2013.
“I love being a nurse,” she says. “I love caring for people. [But,] as a nurse educator, I’m able to impart my knowledge and experience into my students. Every time they help or care for someone, I feel as though I’m a part of it. So, in essence, I’m able to touch more people’s lives than ever before!”
While she’s not planning to make a career out of dancing, DeGennaro is planning to continue her UCF education, beginning her Ph.D. in summer 2016, with plans to do research in critical care.
The UCF Alumni Association board of directors, led by its chair, Peter Cranis, ’84, welcomes three new members this summer. The board is made up of dedicated volunteers who share their time and expertise to strengthen programs and services that benefit alumni and students.
Angela Cohen, ’98, is president/co-founder of Cyon, an Orlando-based professional recruitment firm. Angela’s expertise includes strategic planning and Fortune 100 corporate management. She and Cyon are dedicated to providing educational scholarships to deserving students at UCF through the UCF Foundation and her namesake scholarship to an active member of the Kappa Delta Sorority.
Trish Celano, ’10, is vice president/chief nursing officer for Florida Hospital. Trish specializes in nursing strategies, mentoring, coaching and outcome management. She was the recipient of last year’s UCF College of Nursing Professional Achievement Award.
Beth Smith, ’04, is the community relations manager for Orlando Health. Beth combines leadership and volunteerism to support fundraising activities for numerous community organizations, including UCF scholarships. In 2012, she was named one of the Orlando Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” nominees.
A test that costs less than a $1 and yields results in minutes has been shown in newly published studies to be more sensitive and more exact than the current standard test for early-stage prostate cancer.
The simple test developed by University of Central Florida scientist Qun “Treen” Huo holds the promise of earlier detection of one of the deadliest cancers among men. It would also reduce the number of unnecessary and invasive biopsies stemming from the less precise PSA test that’s now used.
“It’s fantastic,” said Dr. Inoel Rivera, a urologic oncologist at Florida Hospital Cancer Institute, which collaborated with Huo on the recent pilot studies. “It’s a simple test. It’s much better than the test we have right now, which is the PSA, and it’s cost-effective.”
When a cancerous tumor begins to develop, the body mobilizes to produce antibodies. Huo’s test detects that immune response using gold nanoparticles about 10,000 times smaller than a freckle.
When a few drops of blood serum from a finger prick are mixed with the gold nanoparticles, certain cancer biomarkers cling to the surface of the tiny particles, increasing their size and causing them to clump together.
Among researchers, gold nanoparticles are known for their extraordinary efficiency at absorbing and scattering light. Huo and her team at UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center developed a technique known as nanoparticle-enabled dynamic light scattering assay (NanoDLSay) to measure the size of the particles by analyzing the light they throw off. That size reveals whether a patient has prostate cancer and how advanced it may be.
And although it uses gold, the test is cheap. A small bottle of nanoparticles suspended in water costs about $250, and contains enough for about 2,500 tests.
“What’s different and unique about our technique is it’s a very simple process, and the material required for the test is less than $1,” Huo said. “And because it’s low-cost, we’re hoping most people can have this test in their doctor’s office. If we can catch this cancer in its early stages, the impact is going to be big.”
After lung cancer, prostate cancer is the second-leading killer cancer among men, with more than 240,000 new diagnoses and 28,000 deaths every year. The most commonly used screening tool is the PSA, but it produces so many false-positive results – leading to painful biopsies and extreme treatments – that one of its discoverers recently called it “hardly more effective than a coin toss.”
Pilot studies found Huo’s technique is significantly more exact. The test determines with 90 to 95 percent confidence that the result is not false-positive. When it comes to false-negatives, there is 50 percent confidence – not ideal, but still significantly higher than the PSA’s 20 percent – and Huo is working to improve that number.
The results of the pilot studies were published recently in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. Huo is also scheduled to present her findings in June at the TechConnect World Innovation Summit & Expo in suburban Washington, D.C.
Huo’s team is pursuing more extensive clinical validation studies with Florida Hospital and others, including the VA Medical Center Orlando. She hopes to complete major clinical trials and see the test being used by physicians in two to three years.
Huo also is researching her technique’s effectiveness as a screening tool for other tumors.
“Potentially, we could have a universal screening test for cancer,” she said. “Our vision is to develop an array of blood tests for early detection and diagnosis of all major cancer types, and these blood tests are all based on the same technique and same procedure.”
Huo co-founded Nano Discovery Inc., a startup company headquartered in a UCF Business Incubator, to commercialize the new diagnostic test. The company manufacturers a test device specifically for medical research and diagnostic purposes.
A common denominator apparent in many of her best new hires and colleagues inspired Patricia Celano to further her education. Upon observing the level of preparation bestowed upon nurse leaders who had gone through the UCF College of Nursing master’s program, Celano was convinced that UCF was the place for her. As chief nursing officer and vice president of clinical services for Florida Hospital South, she now implements her new skills to effectively manage one of the largest nursing workforces in the state.