NoteWorthy – 1/24/21
AROUND THE VALLEY
2020 NECC Grad Continues His Education with a Little Help from Oprah
Oprah Winfrey is helping Jeurys Santiago, a 2020 Northern Essex Community College (NECC) Business Transfer graduate, to continue his studies at UMass Lowell (UML).
Santiago, a 2017 Lawrence High School graduate, was awarded the Oprah Winfrey Scholarship, which will provide him with $5,000 a year while working on his bachelor’s degree in business with a focus on entrepreneurship in the Honors College.
Santiago was nominated for the scholarship by staff in the federally funded Northern Essex PACE Program. The scholarship was created after Winfrey spoke at a 2018 UML event that raised $1.5 million for scholarships through ticket sales and sponsorships. Winfrey matched that figure with another $1.5 million to create a $3 million scholarship fund.
Santiago has always been an entrepreneur, selling bracelets and hats from his father’s barber shop in New York City and Yu-Gi-Oh cards as a kid. Last year, he started his own business, Minds With Purpose, a networking platform designed to bring together the Lawrence community including local businesses to do “good works” in the city.
He organized a “giveback challenge” which encouraged good deeds that were shared on social media; “A Merry Christmas Giveaway,” which supplied 70 people in need with winter clothing; and “Music Mondays,” events showcasing the talents of local performers.
While at Northern Essex, Santiago participated in the National Leadership Society; the Civic Scholars Program, which provides an opportunity for students to explore and grow their civic knowledge and skills; and the Alpha Beta Gamma business honors society. He also had an internship with the college’s athletic department, where he ran the department’s social media accounts and created photography and videos.
UML Researcher Receives Grant for Pursuit of Virtual-Reality Therapy to Aid Patients Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries
UMass Lowell (UML) researcher Jiabin Shen, who is developing innovative therapies for injured children and teens, has received more than $700,000 from the National Institutes of Health. Shen, an assistant professor of psychology, is exploring how virtual-reality based rehabilitation could improve cognitive functioning in young people with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). A new three-year grant from the NIH marks Shen’s latest step in a long march toward improving the quality of life for these patients through technology and developmental psychology.
Traumatic brain injuries are a leading cause of disabilities for children in the United States, according to Shen. Virtual reality — commonly used in games, flight simulators and surgeries — offers a computer-generated world in which individuals use special goggles and sensor-laden gloves to interact in the created environment.
In therapeutic settings, virtual-reality systems offer interventional tools that can sharpen cognitive skills in children with TBIs. Custom-designed hardware setups can accommodate the clinical needs of patients and specialized games can improve memory, cognitive flexibility and inhibition control, according to Shen.
The NIH funding will support patient recruitment, intervention delivery, data collection and analysis. It will also allow Shen to hire doctoral students to assist with the project, which will provide them with hands-on training in how to conduct clinical research, he said.
Shen has been studying how to prevent and treat pediatric injuries since 2011. He first took an interest in child psychology during graduate school when he began to recognize the importance of childhood in shaping the rest of an individual’s life. He believes virtual reality holds great promise for cognitive rehabilitation in young patients.
GLCF: Partnering to Meet the Social and Emotional Needs of Greater Lowell During COVID
As local nonprofits began reporting that their clients were suffering ill effects from isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Greater Lowell Community Foundation (GLCF) responded by awarding a series of grants to help address social and emotional health issues.
In March, when COVID-19 hit, the children and adults with disabilities at Concord’s Minute Man Arc for Human Services (MMAHS) and Seven Hills Pediatric Center in Groton were suddenly cut off from family and friends. Both nonprofits received GLCF grants to purchase iPads to enable their clients to communicate with loved ones and outside professionals.
Another GLCF grant for Strongwater Farm Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Tewksbury allowed for the revival of its Visiting Program, which brings therapy horses to patients in long-term care and hospice facilities.
GLCF helped MMAHS, who provides lifelong care to 850 children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, purchase 25 iPads that were distributed to clients living in eight group homes, according to Chief Development Officer Stephanie Parish.
MMAHS offers virtual programs like educational classes, yoga and aerobics, plus recreational activities like bingo and — everyone’s favorite — musical sing-a-longs, said Parish, “Now, when they bring up a class on their iPads, they can see their friends again. It has been really critical to our clients’ well being.”
Children living at Seven Hills Pediatric Center have also benefitted from a GLCF grant to purchase five iPads, plus five tall standers to hold the devices, according to Elizabeth Vittum, assistant vice president of development for the Seven Hills Foundation.
Recognizing these pandemic-related social and emotional health issues, as well as other needs, the GLCF has awarded more than $2.9 million in COVID-relief support to local nonprofits.
Groveland Firefighters Receive Federal Grant to Assist Fire Department
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today $560,726 in direct assistance grants to 39 volunteer and combination fire departments nationwide through the agency’s FY2020 Assistance to Firefighters Grant COVID-19 supplemental program (AFG-S). Included is the Groveland Fire Department, which will receive $7,226 in funding.
Authorized and funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the AFG-S is a $100 million supplemental funding opportunity to support the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) and related disinfectant supplies and equipment to help the fire services prevent, prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Study of Heart-Rate Sensor Earns Praise for UML Team
UMass Lowell (UML) students testing a new device that could transform the way heart rate data is collected have won praise for their work from the American College of Sports Medicine.
A portable sensor that collects heart rate data shows promise for its accuracy and convenience, according to research conducted by David Cornell, UML assistant professor of physical therapy and kinesiology, and his students.
“Information collected by the device provides insight on the patient’s heart-rate variability, which can be a window into how one’s autonomic nervous system is functioning. Used by researchers, clinicians and practitioners in many ways, the data can also provide clues about health and cardiovascular diseases risk,” Cornell said. This new device collects information using a sensor that fits over a finger, potentially expanding its use by athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
The students’ results showed that the finger sensor, which costs about $150 and comes with a smartphone app that interprets the raw data, was both accurate and reliable, finding similar heart rate patterns in the same person on different days. The sensor can be used by athletes to measure their fitness, performance and recovery after exercise and by health care professionals in their everyday work, according to Thomas Sherriff of Lowell, who helped conduct the research. Sherriff is a UML doctoral candidate in physical therapy who also holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology from the university.
Other UML students working on the project included Stephanie Amico, a master’s degree candidate in public health who received her bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology from the university in May, exercise science major Kevin Ha and exercise science major Andreas Himariotis of Tyngsborough.
The students were honored virtually for their work during UML’s annual Student Research and Community Engagement Symposium. Building on that recognition, each student submitted the team’s results and a recorded presentation about the project to the New England Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual conference. Himariotis, a junior, won the top Student Investigator Undergraduate Award, while Sherriff and Amico were selected as finalists in the doctoral and master’s categories, respectively.
Check Out the Latest Episode of The 495 Podcast!
Merrimack fans take note! This week on The 495, we discuss the state of our favorite river with Matthew Thorne from the Merrimack River Watershed Council. Then, we’re joined by Dr. Lien-Thu Dao of Haverhill Family Eye Care for tips on taking care of your eyes in a digital world. Listen to the podcast here.