Zika virus in the United States

January 29, 2016

As the mosquito-borne Zika virus spreads through the Caribbean and Central and South America, the World Health Organization has advised that the virus eventually may reach most nations in the Americas. Symptoms of infection are similar to mild dengue fever, but a possible connection with birth defects in affected countries raises concerns about wider virus impacts. What are the risks to the United States? U biology professor and entomologist Jack Longino and infectious disease expert and physician Andy Pavia are available to comment on this emerging disease.

Jack Longino, office 801-587-5683,

To reach Andy Pavia, contact Julie Kiefer, office 801-587-1293, cell 801-597-4258,

Which diet is best for starting 2016?

December 17, 2015

For many people, next week marks the time to bring on the Christmas cookies and treats. That’s followed by the beginning of a new year, when many people try to change their eating habits in hopes of a slimmer waistline and better health in general. Not all diets are created equal though. U.S. News & World Report in the past has put together a panel of experts to review some popular diets and give their recommendations. Katherine Beals, an associate professor with University of Utah Health Care’s Division of Nutrition, has served on that panel in the past and is available to talk about why the problem with “diets” may be in the concept itself. To schedule an interview, contact Libby Mitchell in the University of Utah Health Sciences Office of Public Affairs.
Phone: 801-587-0945| Email:

Game about virtual pets puts students on fast track to entrepreneurship

December 17, 2015

University of Utah MBA student Tim Cooley wanted to find a way to make exercise more fun. He started with a simple question: What if walking a pet —even a virtual pet —could be made into a game? With help from the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the David Eccles School of Business, he and a team of other students joined forces to do just that. They created StepPets, a game where players compete with pets they earn by walking and increasing their fitness goals each day. Earlier this month, Cooley, along with Topher Nadauld, Binoy Mohanty — who both were Entertainment Arts and Engineering graduate students at the U — and Eleora Nelson, a local Salt Lake City artist, watched as their creation hit the ITunes store. After raising more than $10,000 through the U’s Get Seeded and Bench-to-Bedside programs, they were given $20,000 from Zions Bank to take the company to the next level. This month, StepPets, through its parent company Random Breakfast, launched in the Apple App Store. The students are available for interviews about their product and their journey to becoming young business owners.
Tim Cooley |Phone:619-301-9180 | Email:

Grief and the holidays

December 17, 2015

The holidays are upon us, bringing family and friends together to join in festivities, fun and traditions. As a popular holiday song declares, “Tis the season to be jolly.” For some the holidays don’t feel jolly and heighten feelings of anxiety, sadness and depression, especially for those dealing with the death of a loved one. People experience and deal with death in various ways. How you pick up the pieces, heal and move forward, especially while in school and focusing on your studies, can be extremely difficult. That’s why Becky Ablad and Annalise John, graduate students in the College of Social Work specializing in mental health, established the University of Utah chapter of Actively Moving Forward. Both took an elective grief and loss class this past summer after people close to them and embarked on a mission to find a way to help other college students going through similar situations. AMF is a free student-led support group dedicated to helping other students grieving the illness or death of a loved one. University Counseling Center also offers a grief support group to students called Sharing is Caring and consists of semester-long sessions held once a week on Wednesdays from 12-12:50 p.m. in room 344 of the Student Services Building. For $20 a semester, UCC Licensed Psychologist and Group Coordinator Karen Cone-Uemura, offers a place for those who have experienced loss to come together, talk and connect. Representatives from either group are available to talk about resources for coping with grief during the holidays.
University of Utah AMF Chapter |
University Counseling Center | 801-581-6826

Shoveling injuries and prevention

December 17, 2015

The snow is here and that means plenty of shoveling —and back exercise that some people aren’t used to. What’s the best way to prevent injuries when clearing sidewalks, cars and other snow-covered areas? How can one get stronger before the snow flies to get into top shoveling shape?  Linda Scholl, a physical therapist at University of Utah Health Care’s Orthopaedic Center is available to speak on the topic.  To schedule an interview, contact Libby Mitchell in the University of Utah Health Sciences Office of Public Affairs.
Phone: 801-587-0945| Email:

Context from Campus: Nov.9 -13

November 6, 2015

Trending Topics:

How toxic is social media?
This past week, a 19-year-old Instagram model Essena O’Neill with over 800,000 followers made international headlines when she announced that she would quit social media. O’Neill has since re-captioned many of her old photos to reveal the amount of effort and sponsorship that went into seemingly effortless and spontaneous moments. She also spoke out on the toxic effects social media had on her self-esteem and perceptions of reality. It’s undeniable that social media is an unavoidable aspect of Americans’ lives and have many benefits such as keeping distant friends and family members connected. However, there are many negative effects too, such as unrealistic expectations and unhealthy comparisons. Avery Holton, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Utah, is available to comment on O’Neill’s recent actions, motivations and social media’s impacts in general.
Avery Holton Phone: 801-585-1067| Email:

Utah Legislative Preview: What will be the hot issues in 2016?
Medicaid expansion, LGBT rights versus religious freedoms, the right to use medical marijuana and a host of other issues took center stage during the 2015 Utah legislative session.
What’s on deck for 2016?  Jason Perry, interim director of the Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah, is available to offer commentary on the notable political events of 2015 as well as predictions for what’s to come in 2016.
*To schedule an interview with Jason Perry, contact Natalie Tippets, Phone: 801-581-8514 | Email:

Link between family history of Alzheimer’s disease and financial planning
A new study from University of Utah researchers asserts that the people most likely to see expert financial advice and to delay retirement are those whose families People whose families have a history of Alzheimer’s disease. The study, by U researchers Cathleen Zick, Robert Mayer and Ken Smith, suggests that people who may be prone to Alzheimer’s are perhaps more in tune to the costs of institutionalized care and therefore plan more. The study, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, found people whose families had a history of Alzheimer’s were 86 percent more likely to have visited with a wealth management professional and 40 percent less likely to retire before age 65 in comparison to people without a history of Alzheimer’s in their families. The study has been submitted to American Journal of Alzheimer’s disease & Other Dementias and will be published in coming weeks. Researchers are happy to discuss their findings.
Cathleen Zick Phone: 801-581-3147 | Email:

Nice guys can finish first
Do nice people have a greater ability to motivate others to cooperate? Or is competence the most important factor at play when it comes to organizing cooperation? Those questions are at the forefront of new research published by University of Utah anthropologist Shane Macfarlan and co-author co-author Henry F. Lyle of the University of Washington in the journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. After spending several months studying the dynamics of people in Dominica and Peru, Macfarlan and Lyle uncovered new information about how people respond to different characteristics among leaders. “The gist is this: do competent or “nice” folks have a greater ability to motivate others to cooperate? While nice guys are nice and everyone likes them, we may not believe they are capable of getting the job done and therefore they may have difficulty getting others to contribute to collective endeavors,” said Macfarlan. “It might feel good to help Forrest Gump because he’s a nice guy; however, he’s not the guy you want to organize cooperation because he doesn’t seem so competent. The information is relevant to ongoing debates over what makes a strong leader, said Macfarlan. He noted that society continually debates whether they prefer leaders who can get the job done, —or who are cooperative. Macfarlan is available to speak to media about the findings of his study.
Shane Macfarlan | Phone: 510-295-9282 | Email:

New York Mets star and U alum George Theodore remembers
He was nicknamed “The Stork.” At 6 feet 5 inches tall, George Theodore stood out among the 1973 New York Mets. He moved well on his long legs, making him a dynamite first baseman and a quick outfielder. Today, as a school social worker, he towers above the elementary students with whom he works, yet his warm demeanor, quirky sense of humor, and terrific baseball stories make him easily accessible to both kids and parents. During his senior year of college – upon the recommendation of his aunt – Theodore applied to the U’s Master of Social Work (MSW) Program. Shortly after being accepted, he was drafted by the New York Mets in the 31st round of the amateur draft. He eventually returned to the U in 1976 and finished his degree, embarking on a lifelong career in social work. Theodore recently shared his story with the College of Social Work and is happy to speak about the role the U played in shaping who he is today.
Jennifer Nozawa, public relations specialist, University of Utah College of Social Work | Phone: 801-585-9303 | Email:


Saturday, Nov. 7
Religious freedom in a changing world

Religious freedom: it’s a topic that has received intense national attention in recent months, following the actions of Kentucky Court Clerk Kim Davis —who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because of her religious beliefs. Davis spent five days in jail after ignoring a court order that she issue marriage licenses to all couples, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2015 that legalized gay marriage. Her actions drew both ire and support, and the high profile case is one example of many cases before legislatures and courts that have addressed conflicts between civil rights and religious liberties. In Utah, other issues of religious freedom have also made headlines, including this week’s announcement by the LDS Church on membership of same-sex couples and their children. Continued attention on the topic is one reason students at the S.J. Quinney College of Law are helping to organize a symposium discussing the issue. Sponsored by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, the event will feature discussion by attorneys, faith community leaders and a legislator on various topics related to religious freedom. Cost is $10 for the general public and $5 for students.
S.J. Quinney College of Law, 383 South University Street, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 9
Evidence-based decisions for policy: The case for eyewitness identification

The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law on will host a symposium dedicated to better understanding eye witness identification through the use of science for decision-making about public policy. The event at the law school takes place at the Flynn Faculty Scholarship Room (6500) on the sixth floor of the law building. “Evidence-Based Decisions for Policy: The Case for Eyewitness Identification,” will feature a lecture by Joanne Yaffe, a professor at the University of Utah College of Social Work. In late 2013, the National Academies asked Yaffe to help with a fast-track study examining eyewitness identification.  For 11 intensive months, she collaborated with a multidisciplinary team of well-known experts from across the country, examining the issue through the lenses of law enforcement, the judiciary, and social sciences.  The National Academies later released the group’s report, which urged caution in handling and relying upon eyewitness identifications in criminal cases. The group also recommended best practices for law enforcement and courts.
S.J. Quinney College of Law, 383 South University Street, 12:15 to 1:15 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 10
The authors and illustrator of “March,” the best-selling graphic novel series that narrates U.S. Rep. John Lewis’s account of the civil rights movement, will speak at the U Nov. 10. Lewis, co-author Andrew Aydin and illustrator Nate Powell will discuss the books and their goal to educate and inspire young people to understand the power of nonviolence. They will participate in a book signing immediately following the event.
Libby Gardner Hall, 1375 Presidents Circle, 11 a.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 11
The U will honor 11 Utah veterans, including Chris Haley, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and lost a leg while trying to aid another injured solider, at its 18th annual Veterans Day commemoration ceremony. The tribute includes a panel discussion, “Forgotten and Abandoned Vietnam Veterans,” a 21-cannon solute, an awards ceremony and a concert.
Union Building, Ballroom, 200 S. Central Campus Drive, 8:30 a.m.-Noon

Thursday, Nov. 12
“The Case Against 8”

The Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah will host a public screening of the Sundance film, “The Case Against 8” draws back the curtain on one of the most contentious legal cases of recent years that paved the way for the ultimate Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage. The film will give audiences the opportunity to experience this historical journey in an in-depth and intimate way. The director Ryan White will lead a Q&A session immediately following the screening.
Salt Lake Film Society’s Broadway Centre Cinemas, 111 E. Broadway, 7 p.m. 

Thursday, Nov. 12
Reflections on the 2015 UK parliamentary election
You may know all about how election day shook out in the U.S. this month, but do you know how the 2015 UK parliamentary election changed the political landscape across the pond? Here’s your chance to find out: The Hinckley Institute of Politics hosts “Reflections on the 2015 UK parliamentary election.” John Francis, a professor of political science, will host a panel exploring the recent election.
Orson Spencer Hall, Room 255, 260 Central Campus Drive, 9:10 to 10:10 a.m.

Processed meats and cancer

October 30, 2015

Can eating bacon cause cancer? People across the country became concerned about their breakfast favorite when, on Oct. 26, the World Health Organization released a report announcing findings that eating processed meats like hot dogs, bacon and sausage raises the risk of colon cancer, and put the meats in the same cancer-causing classification as cigarettes and asbestos. Dr. Jewel Samadder, a gastroenterologist at Huntsman Cancer Institute, is available for interviews regarding this study, and can discuss how much processed meats can be consumed, if at all. To schedule an interview with Dr. Samadder, contact Linda Aagard, Director of Public Affairs, Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Linda Aagard Phone: 801-587-7639 | Email:

Breast cancer awareness

October 22, 2015

October has become synonymous with pink ribbons, as breast cancer awareness month reaches a fever pitch. Caren Frost, director of global social work at the College of Social Work, can speak to the issue of breast cancer awareness from a global perspective. Frost, who is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Family and Preventative Medicine, is engaged in developing topic-specific workshops with women’s group for women with refugee status.  In addition, she is involved in interdisciplinary research across the University of Utah campus, as well as with colleagues from other universities in the U.S. and globally.

Phone: 801-581-5287 | Email:

October is Substance Abuse Prevention Month

October 9, 2015

This October marks the second annual National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, which aims to encourage prevention strategies and ensure the health of teens and young adults. Eric Garland from the College of Social Work is available to talk about what’s new in the field of substance abuse and dependence.
Phone: 801-581-6192 | Email:  

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 9, 2015

This October, the U is participating in Breast Cancer Awareness Month with its Breast Assured campaign to encourage more women to learn about mammograms and self-check breast exams at one of our pink lemonade stands throughout the month. Dr. Nicole Winkler, a radiologist specializing in the detection of breast cancer through mammography, is available for interviews regarding a variety of oncology-related topics. More specifically, she can discuss whether mammograms are as effective as we thought in detecting cancer and what to do if your mammogram comes back abnormal. To schedule an interview with Dr. Winkler, contact Linda Aagard, Director of Public Relations for the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Phone: 801-587-7639 | Email: