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New Boot Camp Pairs Local Businesses with BU Faculty

Puppeteer Leigh Baltzer, owner of Through Me To You Puppetry, Zoomed from her Brookline home into a BU business course that helps small business proprietors recover from the pandemic.

Small Businesses

New Boot Camp Pairs Local Businesses with BU Faculty Virtual program helps Brookline, Brighton businesspeople hurt by pandemic become more digital savvy

It was an unusual assignment for an unusual group of students. The task, given by Patricia Hambrick, a Questrom School of Business master lecturer in marketing: describe your “why,” your passion or mission in life—“what gets you up every morning.”

The students: 20 businesspeople from Brookline and Brighton, who tapped BU brains during a recent session of a Zoomed, 13-week “boot camp” aimed at helping businesses bounce back from COVID-19’s brutal blow to their bottom line. The students represented all sorts of workplaces and professions—restaurants, nonprofits, property management, cleaning services, and gift and game shops. Plus, puppeteers, a chocolatier, and a mobile beer vendor.

During class discussions, some participants said that unusual exercise took them to a deeper level of self-reflection than they’d experienced before.

“I feel like I had a mini-breakthrough within the last 20 minutes,” said Keli Masuck, who owns the Bunny Boutique in Brighton. “I don’t feel like I’m fueled with passion every day to wake up and fulfill my ‘why.’ But with the clothing business I have, it’s really sparking joy through fashion. The reason I keep going back to it, because it’s really kind of small money for me, is because I do have a lot of fun connecting with the people, the feels of the fabric, the way they make me feel when I wear them.”

Baltzer’s puppets lay nearby during the class, but without their puppeteer, they couldn’t participate.

Gordon Szerlip, founder and CEO of e-VOLV Senior Connections in Brighton, provides streaming programs and services to seniors at home to ward off loneliness and isolation, which can be conduits to dementia. “I’m hoping to stimulate lifelong learning,” he explained. 

Hambrick promised that future classes would help these businesspeople and nonprofit workers connect their passion to their target customers and users: “Who loves that you love that [mission], and how does that show up in how you communicate that to the world?”

Drilling those communication and branding skills, particularly through online outreach, into small business and nonprofit employees is the mission of the boot camp, which concludes in late May. Debbie Miller, executive director of the Brookline Chamber of Commerce, conceived the program last fall as Delta and then Omicron prolonged COVID-19’s gut punch to businesses. When Brookline sought a grant for the boot camp from the state, it encouraged her to collaborate with another community. Cecilia Nardi of BU Government & Community Affairs, a member of the Brookline Chamber of Commerce board, is also on the board of the business group Brighton Main Streets. Nardi helped link up the two groups and facilitated BU’s involvement.

The camp has been running virtual workshops Mondays and Fridays on marketing, public relations, and cybersecurity. Besides Hambrick, the participating BU scholars are Kim Donlan, a Questrom lecturer in marketing, Susan Jung Grant, a Questrom clinical associate professor of marketing, and Amy Shanler, a College of Communication associate professor of the practice of public relations. Boston College scholar Joanna Baltes led a workshop on cybersecurity.

The instructors’ expertise was welcome relief for small businesses seeking help in creating a customized approach to reach customers and clients.

During a virtual information session before the camp’s coursework commenced, Donlan assured the businesspeople: “You’ll never look at your business the same again” after the boot camp. “We’re not guaranteeing you’ll all be millionaires and gazillionaires, but if everything goes well, you’ll all have a more profitable business.”

Even before its collaboration with BU and BC, the Brookline Chamber of Commerce had aggressively hosted online workshops to help its members deal with COVID’s hit to business. It even made this past December’s annual First Light Festival virtual, an event that pre-pandemic had been held in person at dozens of businesses.

For all the chamber’s activism, its members, as demonstrated by Hambrick’s class, aren’t mutely taking spoon-fed assistance. Their active participation in class conversation was an intentional design feature. At the information session, Hambrick, referring to her fellow faculty, told the assembled businesspeople that the session “will probably be the most that we’ll talk to you.” 

Indeed, the students also learned from one another. The owner of a property management company confessed in Hambrick’s class that he had never thought of his firm as all that different from competitors. In reply, Szerlip shared a bit of wisdom from his oral surgeon father: “‘The difference between me and the competition is the attention to detail.’ In a property management business, I would think detail is very important.”

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New: Spring Boot 3 Securing Your Application With Jwt Token

Are you looking to secure your Spring Boot applications and keep them safe from unauthorized access? Look no further! Our course, “Spring Security with JWT: Protect Your Applications from Unauthorized Access,” is the perfect solution for you.

In this course, you’ll learn everything you need to know about using Spring Security and JSON Web Tokens (JWT) to secure your applications. We’ll start by teaching you the basics of Spring Security and how it can be used to authenticate and authorize users in your application. From there, you’ll learn how to implement JWT to provide a secure, stateless method of authentication.

With our step-by-step instructions and hands-on exercises, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to confidently secure your Spring Boot applications. Plus, with lifetime access to the course materials, you can revisit the lessons anytime you need a refresher.

Don’t let unauthorized access threaten the security of your applications. Enroll in “Spring Security with JWT: Protect Your Applications from Unauthorized Access” today and take the first step towards safeguarding your valuable assets.

A JSON Web Token (JWT) is a compact, URL-safe means of representing claims to be transferred between two parties. The claims in a JWT are encoded as a JSON object that is digitally signed using JSON Web Signature (JWS).

A JWT consists of three parts: a header, a payload, and a signature.

The header typically consists of two parts: the type of the token, which is JWT, and the signing algorithm being used, such as HMAC SHA256 or RSA.

The second part of the token is the payload, which contains the claims. Claims are statements about an entity (typically, the user) and additional data. There are three types of claims: registered, public, and private claims. Registered claims are a set of predefined claims which are not mandatory but recommended, to provide a set of useful, interoperable claims. Some of the registered claims are:

iss (issuer) claim identifies the principal that issued the JWT.

sub (subject) claim identifies the subject of the JWT.

aud (audience) claim identifies the recipients that the JWT is intended for.

exp (expiration time) claim identifies the expiration time on or after which the JWT MUST NOT be accepted for processing.

Public claims are claims that are defined in the IANA JSON Web Token Registry or are public by nature. Private claims are custom claims created to share information between parties that agree on using them.

The third part of the token is the signature, which is used to verify that the sender of the JWT is who it claims to be and to ensure that the message wasn’t changed along the way.

To create the signature part you have to take the encoded header, the encoded payload, a secret, and the algorithm specified in the header, and sign that. For example, if you want to use the HMAC SHA256 algorithm, the signature will be created in the following way:

HMACSHA256( base64UrlEncode(header) + “.” + base64UrlEncode(payload), secret)

The final JWT will be three base64-URL strings separated by dots, which can be easily passed in HTML and HTTP environments while being more compact when compared to XML-based standards such as SAML.

Who this course is for:





Implement user authentication and authorization using Spring Security

Encrypt user passwords using BCrypt

Implement role-based authorization with Spring Security

Use JSON Web Tokens (JWT) to provide a secure, stateless method of authentication

integrate JWT into a Spring Boot application


Java Knowledge

Bu Launches New Initiative Aimed At Fighting Student Hunger

BU Launches New Initiative Aimed at Fighting Student Hunger

Pantry student employee Kellie Finley-Call (STH’25) stocks shelves at the Food at BU Food Pantry, located in the Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. Students can place an order online and pick up items—including canned vegetables and fruit, cereal, and peanut butter—there three business days later.

Campus Life

BU Launches New Initiative Aimed at Fighting Student Hunger Program run by Student Wellbeing offers a food pantry, provides education, and promotes campus and local resources

Hunger was a major issue facing many Americans even before the pandemic, but soaring inflation and housing costs are forcing even more people to ration food or forego meals entirely in order to meet their expenses. Add to this the fact that many pandemic emergency programs are winding down, and it makes for an extremely volatile situation.

Young people are especially vulnerable. A 2023 study by Temple University found that nearly 29 percent of students at 4-year universities had experienced food insecurity—defined by the US Department of Agriculture as a lack of consistent access to enough food to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. The problem strikes college students of all ages, from undergraduates to PhD candidates, at both public and private universities. Boston University students are not immune. 

In an effort to address the issue, the University has launched a centralized approach to food insecurity, which encompasses a food pantry as well as education and information about resources aimed at fighting food insecurity on and off campus. The new initiative, overseen by Student Wellbeing launched this semester and was made possible thanks to a $75,000 grant from the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Initiative, which aims to reduce hunger on college campuses. 

Learn More about the Hunger-Free Campus Initiative

In 2023, State Representative Andy Vargas (Pardee’15) (D-3rd Essex) co-sponsored a bill that would establish a statewide hunger-free campus initiative to address college student food insecurity (the bill is now before the Massachusetts House Ways and Means committee). This is in addition to a bill signed into law in 2023 by then-Governor Charlie Baker which established the Hunger-Free Campus Initiative. That bill committed $3.7 million toward combating college hunger. Specifically, $1 million is earmarked for grants like the one BU received.

“I think what stood out is our educational approach to food insecurity,” says the grant’s co-applicant Carrie Landa, executive director of BU Student Wellbeing. “We want to be able to teach students about how they can access food resources, both at BU and in the greater Boston community.”

Co-applicant Ellen Faszewski, associate dean for student affairs at Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, says she and Landa were thrilled when they learned BU had been selected. “We put a lot of time into writing the application, and I’m happy we helped Student Wellbeing receive more financial support and credibility,” she says. “I’m very excited for the students and the community to have access to these funds and we can scale up our efforts.”

Before this initiative launched, many BU departments were already working to address hunger on campus. There were food pantries at Wheelock and on the Medical Campus, as well as smaller one-off pantries launched by individual departments and offices. During the spring 2023 semester, Innovate@BU held a BU Hub cocurricular course and a month-long Campus Hunger Challenge, which promised $10,000 to the students or alums who could dream up ways to help people access food. 

Meanwhile, discussions were happening among BU administrators about how best to centralize food distribution efforts across the University. 

With an uncertain economy and a higher number of Pell Grant students coming to BU, students have more financial need than previous generations, Landa says. “Nationally, certain communities and public institutions might see higher rates [of need than BU], but the demographic of the University is changing,” she says. What’s more, since international students aren’t eligible for financial aid, “in some ways it’s unclear what exactly the food insecurity rates look like at BU, but we do know that they exist,” she says.

Student Wellbeing’s initiative is designed to be a “systematic approach” to help students, secure food and resources, no matter what school or college they are in, Landa says.

Landa acknowledges that for some students, there may be a stigma around asking for food assistance, and says the new initiative is sensitive to that. Students are asked for their names and BU ID number, but all orders are kept strictly confidential.

Using this order form, student “shoppers” can choose canned items like vegetables and beans, fruit, soup, tuna, pasta, rice, cereal, and peanut butter. The request is filled by student workers and is then ready for pick up three business days later on either the MED or Charles River campuses, depending on which location the student requested.

Beyond Food Pantries

Landa and Faszewski echo experts who say that food pantries are not a permanent solution to food insecurity. The new strategy features a robust website, which has the BU Food Pantry order form, a detailed history of food efforts on campus, and a list of campus and community food resources for students who are experiencing food insecurity. 

There are links to information about free community dinners held at Marsh Chapel and the Allston Brighton Food Pantry, other local food pantries, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the City of Boston’s Farmers Market Coupon Program, as well as food education programs, including Sargent College’s Sargent Choice Nutrition Center, which runs workshops on budgeting and how to create inexpensive, healthy, and filling meals. 

One resource promoted on the website is Terrier Meal Share, a program that allows students to donate their extra guest dining hall meals to students in need, with Auxiliary Services matching donations. (BU Today previously reported that the demand for Terrier Meal Share significantly increased during the pandemic.) The process is completely confidential. 

Faszewski is encouraged by the progress thus far, and dreams of how it can continue growing, perhaps with pop-up food pantries and by offering perishable items such as fresh meat and vegetables. “For now, we want to keep increasing access and our outreach, and try to reduce the stigma around food insecurity,” she says.

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Recruiting, Retaining, Advancing Diverse Faculty

Recruiting, Retaining, Advancing Diverse Faculty Harvard Medical School Dean Joan Reede: “Diversity is not a problem for women or people of color to solve alone.”

They are BU alumni, faculty, and staff—of every race, ethnicity, age, and gender—and they are “Opening Doors” for the next generation.

For pediatrician Joan Reede, it’s important that people know she also is a professor of medicine, because there are so few African American women teaching in medical schools. Of more than 70,000 full-time women faculty at US medical schools in 2023, just over 3,600 were black or African American, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Reede (Questrom’08), who became the first dean for diversity and community partnership at Harvard Medical School in 2002, has worked for decades to change that. In 1990, she founded the Harvard Medical School Minority Faculty Development Program, which helps prospective faculty acquire the skills and knowledge they need to move from medical practice to medical education. Funded fellowships offer support for medical research, an important part of getting, and keeping, a medical school faculty position.

And even as Reede applauds the growing number of doctors of color, she is quick to point out that the effort must start early. The Diversity and Community Partnership Office provides K-12 teachers with curriculum materials promoting science literacy and introducing science careers. The partnership reaches out to biotech, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and other healthcare institutions to fund and develop lab tours, mentorships, and other opportunities for young people with a love of science. Harvard Medical School sponsors students in high school, college, and medical school to participate in partnership programs.

BU Today spoke with Reede about facing racism and about the women who opened doors for her.

BU Today: What was your experience like at BU?

Reede: By the time I got there, I was already a practicing physician and I had a master’s in public health. There were professors there who struck me as being thoughtful about diversity, which I appreciated.

Have you ever felt as though a door was not open to you because of your background?

When I was a senior resident physician handling outpatient visits, a family came and said they didn’t want a [n-word] doctor seeing their child. That can be hurtful, because you spend all that time training. But that’s just part of being black. But it had never occurred to me that I couldn’t or shouldn’t be in any space because I am African American or a woman, because how others think about me has nothing to do with my path. So, I didn’t feel a need to react. I just assigned the family to an intern. But then, when they had bigger questions, they asked to talk with the senior resident. That was me. The look on the father’s face was disbelief and embarrassment. That was a lesson for them to learn; their racism was not my problem.

What are the more subtle forms of intolerance or racism you have faced? And how did you handle those experiences?

One time I was getting followed around a store while I was shopping—the assumption being that I was going to steal. So I turned around and said to the employee, “If you’re going to follow me around, you can at least hold these for me.” Then I handed her the clothes I picked out. It was worth it to see the expression on her face. But the bottom line is, I didn’t get angry, she still got the message, and I had someone to carry my stuff.

Who opened doors for you?

What can people do in their own workplaces to make them more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming?

It’s not like you do one thing and it solves everything. Working toward diversity has to be embedded in the organizational infrastructure, and not just an initiative or program you set up that fades away after a year or two because “it didn’t work.”

With pipeline issues, you can provide opportunities, but you can’t just sit back and hope that people find their way to your door. They have to be deliberate about it, and not just do things that feel good. They have to start with a basic understanding of what they are thinking of when they say diversity. Who are you looking for? There are multiple forms of diversity and different kinds of marginalization. So, they have to be deliberate about the message they send and who receives it.

Can you talk about the current political climate with respect to diversity and inclusion?

This is definitely a challenging time period, and not just in terms of diversity and inclusion. But as far as that’s concerned, there are a lot of people who thought we were much farther ahead than we are. That can be disheartening or depressing for them, but I was never under the impression that racism is gone or a thing of the past. And diversity is not a problem for women or a problem for people of color to solve alone. We all have our “isms,” so we all have to own the problems those isms create.

What specific changes have you made in your workplace?

Diversity is now included in the mission statement of Harvard Medical School. It’s now recognizing the history of our culture and the need to understand conscious and unconscious bias, and creating safe spaces for dialogue.

As far as numbers, there were less than 200 black faculty in Harvard’s medical and dental schools when the minority faculty program started; now there are over 700. That’s great, but it’s not just about numbers. It’s not just adding faces to a picture. We also need to bring in different ways of solving problems. I’m not just interested in who gets a seat at the table, but whose voice is heard once they’re sitting there, and how much their voices influence policy. We have to work on that as well.

Leah Samuel is a freelance writer. Send emails to [email protected].

Do you know BU alumni, faculty, and staff who are opening doors or breaking barriers themselves? Email Cindy Buccini at [email protected] and recommend them for our series “Opening Doors.”

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Robin Williams Revealed, With Big Help From Bu Archives

Robin Williams Revealed, with Big Help from BU Archives New York Times author’s new book uncovers surprising truth about late comedian’s famous spontaneous riffs

Comedian and Academy Award–winning actor Robin Williams was so wildly inventive and spontaneous that he made up all his riffs and routines on the fly. Or at least, that was the legend of the brilliant but troubled Williams, who was 63 when he died from suicide in 2014.

Except, as New York Times culture reporter Dave Itzkoff writes in his acclaimed 500-plus-page New York Times best-selling biography Robin (Henry Holt and Company, 2023), the legend was more fiction than fact. Itzkoff, who will talk about his book Tuesday night at the Metcalf Ballroom, uncovered Williams’ more complex creative process through exhaustive research, including more than 100 interviews with family and friends and the directors, writers, actors, agents, and comedians the actor worked with.

Also central to his understanding of that creative process, says Itzkoff, were Williams’ papers, which he donated to BU’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center in 2011, after Gotlieb director Vita Paladino (MET’79, SSW’93) had begun a correspondence with him about them. Among other materials, Itzkoff poured through countless handwritten notes Williams had made for jokes and comic performances as well as for scenes in movies and television shows.

Itzkoff makes it clear in his book that he was a fan of Williams, chronicling the performer’s spectacular successes, his devotion to friends like Billy Crystal, Christopher Reeve, and Richard Pryor, and his love of his family. But he doesn’t shy away from the messiness—the three marriages, the struggles with addiction, the deep insecurity.

“The real Robin was a modest, almost inconspicuous man, who never fully believed he was worthy of the monumental fame, adulation, and accomplishments he would achieve,” writes Itzkoff, who had interviewed the actor extensively between 2009 and 2013 for New York Times articles.

BU Today talked with Itzkoff about his research for Robin, how he organized his writing time—he credits, in part, his then-new baby—and about the similarities between his own father, who is in long-term recovery from a cocaine addiction, and Williams, who had also suffered from addiction and was sober at the end of his life (Itzkoff writes in his book that Williams’ death was complicated by Parkinson’s disease and undiagnosed Lewy body dementia).

BU Today: In your memoir, Cocaine’s Son, you write about your father’s addiction while you were growing up. Did you empathize with Williams’ son Zak, who had to cope with his father’s addictions, and with Williams himself?

Oh, sure. I think it’s very relevant, even though they’re different people and had different experiences, I certainly think there are some commonalities. Both my father and Robin were recovering addicts, and there is a kind of a similar personality in that they were both extremely—because of their drug experiences, their recovery experiences—confessional people, as recovered addicts sometimes are. They want to tell you all these things about their lives. They want to tell you about the people they used to be when they were still getting high, the regret and remorse they feel, and how they’re different people now and you don’t have to scratch them very deeply to get these kinds of stories, that kind of information out of them. They really aren’t abashed or reluctant about it.

Your acknowledgments say the Gotlieb Center archives—Williams’ papers—at BU were “an invaluable resource.” And you have many footnotes referring to the material: scripts, notes, letters, things like that.

The University should be extremely proud of it. It was such a one-of-a-kind resource, and just absolutely essential to my work. In some ways, Robin’s process is kind of locked away from us. A lot of it is internal and in his head. He wasn’t particularly good all the time at setting it down on paper, but because we have not only the annotations he made himself on his various scripts…but also the notes he and other people kept on his stand-up routines and performances—that’s pretty massive in terms of a piece of the puzzle.

It’s a huge piece to have because I think there is this assumption that everything that he did essentially he made up off the top of his head…. There was a lot of research and a lot of note-taking, and dry runs that he went through and a lot of organization and practice.

What are some of the things from the archives that were a big help?

A lot of the stuff about Good Morning, Vietnam [in that 1987 movie, Williams plays a disc jockey who hosted an Armed Forces Radio program in Saigon in the mid-1960s] and how he created the Adrian Cronauer disc jockey. I talked to director Barry Levinson and other people who worked on the film, but in terms of seeing Robin’s own process, that came right out of his papers.

In the archives you see the research materials that he took with him to Thailand when they were filming—all this information about the mid-1960s Vietnam War–era history that a disc jockey would have known and been talking about. You see the notebooks that he and Marsha [Williams’ second wife] kept. He would basically shoot by day and go home at night and improvise—play around with the facts he was reading up on, coming up with little bits. Either he or she would write them down in notebooks or on paper and they would try to organize them…and maybe he would have 20 different jokes…and [decide] how do I put them in an order that would sound like a spontaneous routine? Even then he’s making these things up; he’d go in front of the camera with 20 different bits in his back pocket, deciding in real time what order to put them in, tweaking them.

Did the folks at the Gotlieb Center just start bringing the boxes to you?

I was there for a week. I just had them bring every box of physical material. There were some digital recordings I didn’t have time to go over, but everything else that was physical—every piece of paper or photograph—I asked to see. I spent a week going through all of it and taking tons of notes and not even thinking about what is in it: don’t try to think about what’s significant about it or try to piece together a narrative in your head at this stage—just take notes, think about how cool this is and how amazing…. Seriously, there were business cards that he printed for himself from the first improv team in Los Angeles—this group called Off the Wall.

It’s sort of amazing that he saved all that stuff…

Yeah, it’s pretty extraordinary, right? He wasn’t always the most organized person…. It was sometimes hard for him to admit or to really articulate or to say out loud, but on some level he was also someone who thought he was possibly destined for a great career, had the potential for it. We all want to save things that are important to us and hope that one day when they’re pieced together and laid out, they will tell the story of who we were.

You cite a lot of letters he wrote, many in the Gotlieb archives. That was an era when people were still writing letters…

There were also a lot of letters to him, which is fascinating. There’s a letter Mr. Rogers [Fred Rogers, the creator of the children’s television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood] wrote to him after he saw Dead Poets Society, which blew my mind. If you think about potentially any movie in Robin Williams’ film résumé that would potentially resonate with Mr. Rogers, that’s probably the best one. In some ways their worlds and lives could not be more different. One was a children’s entertainer. One was aimed more for adult audiences. The kind of stuff Robin was known for in that era was very often vulgar and profane and not necessarily Fred Rogers’ cup of tea.

That was one of the things I found most moving about your book—the network of close friendships Robin Williams had.

In some ways, there are a lot of lessons in his story, but one lesson is that he is just a person. The celebrity aspect of it was so hard for him, and it prevented him at times from just having the kind of normal human existence that he wanted. And he still had all these kinds of failings and misfortunes that occur to all kinds of people, and he dealt with them, no differently than any other kind of person would, regardless of his stature or his wealth at times. Having these close friendships…was tremendously important to him. He was a social person. He needed that interaction, that reinforcement.

This was a massively researched book—did you actually write it and work full-time at the New York Times at the same time you and your wife had just had your first child?

Yes, I did.


By and large, I think that’s good for writers starting out, if nothing else, just to write for themselves, and to be able to share it with others, and hopefully as a way to refine your own interests and find out what you’re curious about. Just having the experience of having an audience respond to what you write, seeing what that’s like, and being part of a conversation around something—I think that’s invaluable.

Dave Itzkoff will speak at the George Sherman Union Metcalf Ballroom, 775 Commonwealth Ave., Tuesday, April 30, at 6 pm. The event is sponsored by the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, part of the Friends Speaker Series. An exhibition of the Robin Williams archives will be on display.

Admission to the event is free to students with a BU ID and Friends of HGARC, and $25 for members of the public.

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Promotion To Full Professor For Four Med Faculty

Promotion to Full Professor for Four MED Faculty Expertise in cancer treatment, PTSD, antibiotic resistance, blood transfusion

Four faculty members of the School of Medicine have been promoted to full professor in recognition of their scholarship. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Their research runs the gamut from high-tech cancer-spotting to preventing domestic violence among veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. And their expertise has earned them promotion to full professor on the faculty at BU’s School of Medicine. They are Gregory A. Grillone, Kalpana Gupta, Karen Quillen, and Casey Tyler Taft.

“We want to congratulate our very accomplished recently promoted professors,” says Karen Antman, dean of MED and Medical Campus provost. “These senior leaders are nationally and internationally recognized experts in their disciplines.”

Gregory A. Grillone, MED professor of otolaryngology

Grillone, vice chairman of the otolaryngology, head and neck surgery department, specializes in using spectroscopy for detection and treatment of cancer in the oral cavity and larynx. He has earned international recognition for his work on head and neck cancer screening and early detection in smokers and former smokers, and is involved in two NIH-funded studies, one as principal investigator and one as co–principal investigator. He is program director for the otolaryngology residency program and president of the American Bronchoesophagological Association. His peers have voted him one of the Best Doctors in America as well as one of America’s Best Doctors.

Foremost among Grillone’s several current research initiatives is one using spectroscopy to detect cancer in the oral cavity and larynx. “Spectroscopy is just a fancy way of saying, using light and how it absorbs and reflects off of tissues to be able to tell something about the tissue,” he says. He uses light to identify “satellite lesions under the surface…tissue that looks normal to the naked eye, but in fact is abnormal,” allowing doctors to adjust the margins of their work to be sure they remove all the cancer.

The project is a team effort with Irving Bigio, a College of Engineering professor of biomedical engineering and of electrical and computer engineering, and his Biomedical Optics Lab and others.

Kalpana Gupta, MED professor of medicine

Gupta is an expert on antibiotic resistance and its role in hospital-acquired infections, such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). She is chief of the Section of Infectious Diseases at VA Boston Healthcare System, West Roxbury campus, overseeing its HIV practice and its clinical infectious diseases, antibiotic stewardship, and infection prevention programs. She has served as chair of the International Clinical Practice Guideline for Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections in Women, which took more than four years to put together.

The project, she says, “was people sharing ideas and expert opinion, and also looking at the literature and analyzing it and interpreting it, and figuring out how to put it into a form that clinicians could use as a guide for treating UTI.” Gupta says completing the guideline was only a starting point for the long process of disseminating it nationally and internationally; the guideline will be updated in the next couple of years.  

Karen Quillen, MED professor of pathology and laboratory medicine

Quillen is medical director of both the Blood Bank and the blood stem cell processing lab at Boston Medical Center. “That’s a big part of my job because the area is so heavily regulated,” she says. “Some of the clinical research projects get done on the side; I write manuscripts at night or on weekends. I imagine this is not unique to me.”

Last fall, Quillen cotaught an undergraduate seminar in the Kilachand Honors College based on Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce,” by Douglas Starr (COM’83), a College of Communication journalism professor. “It was my first venture into undergraduate teaching,” she says, “and it was a lot of fun.”

Casey Tyler Taft, MED professor of psychiatry

Taft specializes in the investigation of violence in domestic relationships, with emphasis on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as both a risk factor for perpetration and as a consequence of victimization. He was the primary architect of the Strength at Home program, developed with colleagues to prevent and reduce domestic violence in military families. The program has just completed two large-scale clinical trials involving more than 500 people, veterans and their intimate partners, with promising results.

“Most men we see have some form of trauma,” often combat-related, says Taft, whose work is based at the VA Boston Healthcare System’s Jamaica Plain campus. “It’s group therapy, basically, trauma-focused.” The idea is to help veterans “manage their anger better, help them manage the situation better, and interpret other people’s intentions in a more positive light.” He and his partners are hoping to roll out the program at nine VA centers nationwide.

A staff member at the VA National Center for PTSD, Taft is principal investigator on active grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense.

Joel Brown can be reached at [email protected].

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