UC Merced Connect: Universities team to tackle valley fever

Seeking to combat a debilitating and sometimes fatal disease commonly found in the San Joaquin Valley, UC Merced’s Health Sciences Research Institute; UC San Francisco’s Fresno Medical Education Program; and the California State University, Fresno, Central California Center for Health and Human Services are working together to determine research priorities and public service needs to address valley fever.

The campuses will hold Valley Fever Research Day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the UCSF Fresno Center for Medical Education and Research, 155 N. Fresno St., Fresno.

The forum, funded in part by the Sierra Health Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, is intended to facilitate a conversation that informs and guides valley fever research in the San Joaquin Valley, with the goal of improving detection, prevention and treatment of the illness. The conversation includes community members and organizations, civic leaders, academics, clinical researchers, health care and public health professionals,as well as others interested in addressing valley fever.

“Community input is very important for this conversation,” said Paul Brown, a UC Merced professor and director of the Health Sciences Research Institute. “The voices of businesses, public agencies and community organizations that serve or work with people who may be at risk for valley fever are needed to make sure that the most appropriate research is available to serve the San Joaquin Valley and California.”

The forum is free and open to the public. Attendees can register at, or contact Erin Gaab at (209) 228-4803 or for more information.

Presentations from researchers, clinicians, advocates and community members are intended to spark discussions and lead to a plan to improve health care, research and community interventions. This forum represents the first step in an action plan being developed by a consortium including UC Merced; UCSF Fresno; CSU, Fresno; Community Medical Centers; Children’s Hospital Central California; the public health departments in the eight counties that make up the San Joaquin Valley; and community organizations serving or working with people most at risk for valley fever.

Undergrads get research career grant

A dozen UC Merced undergraduates will gain an edge in their journey toward a career in biomedical and behavioral research, courtesy of five years of funding from the National Institutes of Health.

The campus recently received a Minority Access to Research Careers grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences that will give the students experience in conducting research, presentation, writing and networking. The MARC funding, – $171,000 per year – is renewable, so there’s a good chance more students will be helped.

The grant is intended to increase the highly trained underrepresented biomedical and behavioral scientists in leadership positions. In the United States, blacks, Latinos and Native Americans are some of the most underrepresented groups in biomedical and behavioral research. With UC Merced’s great diversity, applying for this grant made a lot of sense, said Professor Rudy Ortiz, who applied for the funding.

“Graduate schools want MARC students because they come well-trained and motivated,” Ortiz said. “They can hit the ground running and become exceptional graduate students.”

The students in the first cohort are:

Julio Flores, a senior working with Professor Masashi Kitazawa

Adriana Lopez, a senior working with Ortiz

Debby Lee, a junior working with Ortiz

Emmanuel Villanueva, a junior working with Professor Jitske Tiemensma

The program will begin accepting applications in February for the two slots in the second cohort.