CLEMSON — Patients at risk of infections from surgical devices, newborns experiencing opioid withdrawal and people with Parkinson’s disease stand to benefit from research stemming from Clemson University’s newest named professorships.
The Dr. Wallace R. Roy Distinguished Professorships appointments will support translational research partnerships between Clemson faculty members and Greenville Health System and other health system partners.
Translational research is the effort to translate health research knowledge into practical applications that improve health and wellness.
Jeff Anker, Rachel Mayo and Marieke Van Puymbroeck will be the first recipients of the professorships, which are named for the late Wallace Roy, a 1926 Clemson graduate and one of the nation’s leading food technologists. The three-year awards will support faculty working in biomedicine-related fields in two Clemson colleges: the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences and the College of Science.
Monitoring fracture healing and reducing medical-device infections
As Roy professor, Jeff Anker, associate professor in Clemson’s chemistry department, will seek out broader collaborations to advance his research using X-rays for biomechanical measurements and chemical sensing, especially to monitor fracture healing and study implanted medical device-associated infection.
Anker is working with Tom Pace, a physician in the GHS orthopaedic surgery department, on several National Institutes of Health grants, including developing a noninvasive technique to monitor strain on hip screws, as well as a method of using X-ray technology to noninvasively detect orthopedic device infection.
In partnership with Pace, bioengineering faculty member John DesJardins and biological sciences faculty member Jeremy Tzeng, Anker is also working on an innovative program to make “smart” implanted medical devices capable of sensing chemical changes on implant surfaces to measure bone healing and monitor infections.
“Our hope is that these collaborations will help determine answers to important post-surgery questions such as how quickly patients can begin bearing weight and how can we quickly and effectively monitor infections, particularly among patients with open wounds, severe trauma or impaired immunity,” Anker said.
Palliative care for narcotic-dependent newborns
Mayo, a professor in Clemson’s public health sciences department, will use the professorship to continue to expand her collaboration with Greenville Health System’s Managing Abstinence in Newborns (MAiN) program, an early intervention model for babies born to opioid-dependent mothers.
The program offers an innovative model of care that combines early treatment, rooming-in of babies and mothers at the hospital, interdisciplinary care and outpatient medication weaning, which combine to reduce the need for neonatal intensive care.
Mayo collaborates on the program with Jennifer Hudson, a physician in the GHS pediatrics department. Together, they are studying the health outcomes of babies who receive MAiN program care under Hudson at GHS, and compare those outcomes with those of babies who receive traditional care at hospitals around the state. They are also studying the safety, effectiveness and cost-savings potential of the program.
As a Roy Professor, Mayo will expand the research with Hudson to explore other areas of pediatric health, including breastfeeding and jaundice, the usefulness of the Ballard Score (a commonly used technique of gestational age assessment) and a curriculum design for medical students. Mayo and Hudson will also develop an application for a National Institutes of Health grant that would expand the MAiN program to hospitals outside South Carolina.
“The professorship will position our collaborative research team to move to the next level of nationally competitive research in neonatal health research, specifically mitigating the long-term consequences of opioid use that has emerged as a national crisis,” Mayo said.
Improving mobility among Parkinson’s patients
With her Roy professorship, Marieke Van Puymbroeck, recreational therapy coordinator in Clemson’s parks, recreation and tourism management department, will continue research on programs designed to improve mobility and quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease.
Van Puymbroeck recently completed a randomized controlled pilot trial examining the effectiveness of yoga as a therapeutic intervention for Parkinson’s patients in conjunction with Greenville Health System’s rehabilitation and neurology departments.
Encouraged by the trial results — which indicated that yoga improved balance, gait, postural stability and quality of life — she is working with GHS on the development of a National Institutes of Health grant for a larger trial.
Van Puymbroeck’s most recent research collaboration is with Larry Hodges, a professor of human-centered computing at Clemson and chief operating officer of Recovr Inc., a company providing therapist-designed rehabilitation exercise games that use virtual reality technology.
Van Puymbroeck and Hodges are submitting a National Institutes of Health grant to develop Duck Duck BaM (Balance and Movement), a virtual-reality game prototype aimed to improve gait, mobility and balance among people with Parkinson’s disease.
“One million people live with Parkinson’s disease, and as a result of mobility and balance issues, approximately 70 percent of them fall within a given year,” Van Puymbroeck said. “Falls lead to serious and costly secondary complications, including increased mortality, fractures, medical costs and reduced quality of life. Our research aims to meet a critical need for innovative programming and research designed to reduce falls.”
The Roy professorships support the university’s ClemsonForward strategic plan and its goals to improve research, solve real problems and foster a curiosity-driven intellectual environment. The professorships have been selected to recognize research in health innovation, one of the plan’s key strategic research focus areas.
The professorships are the latest in a growing collaboration between Clemson and health-delivery systems such as GHS, which Clemson serves as its primary research partner.
“The Roy Professorship is another example of the power of collaborative research to transform the health-delivery system, patient outcomes and health status,” said Windsor Westbrook Sherrill, associate vice president for health research at Clemson and chief science officer at GHS. “When philanthropic generosity combines with research expertise and clinical excellence, patients and families are the true beneficiaries.”
Wallace R. Roy
Wallace R. Roy of Orlando, Florida, was a 1926 Clemson chemical engineering graduate and one of the nation’s leading food technologists. He held at least six patents, four of which relate to the development of frozen orange juice concentrate.
A former vice president and board member of Minute Maid and former vice president for technical services for the Coca-Cola Co., he helped develop the Fresca and Fanta brands.
He also maintained a lifelong relationship with Clemson. He was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame in 1977 for accomplishments in track, football and basketball. In 1986, he received the Alumni Association’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award.
After Roy passed away in 2009 at age 97, his daughter, Patty Roy Edwards, established an endowment through the Clemson University Foundation to fund the Dr. Wallace R. Roy Distinguished Professorships.
Melanie Kieve works in the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, at Clemson University.