Investigating Significant Diseases & Regional Relevant Health Issues

The College of Medicine was founded in 2009. 

Our medical research efforts began in 2012, and are young and growing. 

The College is devoting significant resources and effort to continue recent success and expand research activities – with a particular emphasis on issues important to people in our region. 

Our efforts include basic, translational, clinical and public health areas of research to investigate issues with significant to advance scientific discovery and improve community health and wellness. 

Our faculty investigate important aspects of medical research with the potential to contribute to new discoveries in medicine while training medical students and resident physicians in proper research methodology. CMU students and residents develop a strong sense of discovery, which leads to scholastic contributions and improved educational outcomes. 

Research activities are supported by federal funding including the National Institutes of Health; national organizations including the American Heart Association; state sources including the Michigan Health Endowment Fund; and foundational support including the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.

Some of the key areas our researchers are working on include: 

  • Neurodegenerative Diseases (Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's)
  • Diabetes and Heart Disease
  • Cancer
  • Opioid Abuse
  • Women and Infant Health
  • Mosquito- and Tick-Borne Disease
  • Inherited and Acquired Mitochondrial Disease
  • Regional Public Health community education and outcomes projects

Research Building ExteriorIn the area of basic and translational research, Central Michigan University constructed a 12,600 square-foot, state-of-the-art research facility for its College of Medicine faculty on its Mt. Pleasant campus. The facility opened in June of 2013 and houses eight College of Medicine faculty. 

The laboratories are designed to conduct bio-medical research in an open concept environment culture, while pursuing projects that will contribute to groundbreaking discoveries in medicine. They house a shared cell culture facility and a small rodent vivarium, as well as common shared molecular and cellular biology equipment. 

Two of our faculty are collaborators in the neuroscience program and are housed in the Health Professions Brain Research and Integrative Neuroscience (BRAIN) Center. The BRAIN Center is equipped with cell and live animal imaging equipment, and shared resources to study behavior. It is supported by a vivarium. Mosquito work is conducted by a College of Medicine faculty member in the recently opened Biology building. 

Clinical research is conducted by faculty at CMU Health in Saginaw and in Mount Pleasant. CMU Health in Saginaw provides a large diverse outpatient population from a largely underserved urban area.

Edward McKee
Edward McKee, PhD 
Senior Associate Dean, Research and Professor Foundational Science 

Dr. McKee's laboratory studies mitochondrial function and biogenesis in rat and mouse models as it relates to human diseases. His current work is focused on understanding the mechanism(s) of mitochondrial toxicity of certain antibiotics such as Zyvox and anti-viral drugs such as Zidovudine (AZT) used to treat AIDS and to prevent mother-to-baby transmission of AIDS. The laboratory is also involved in studies on the role of the deoxynucleoside triphosphate salvage pathway in mitochondrial DNA depletion disease. His work has been funded by pharmaceutical contracts and NIH. Dr. McKee provides curricular content in biochemistry, molecular and cell biology, and medical genetics, and is the co-course director of the gastrointestinal organ system course.

Beth Bailey
Beth Bailey, PhD 
Director, Health Services Research

Dr. Bailey’s area of research is maternal child health, especially pregnancy substance use and rural health disparities in this population. She serves on expert panels and grant review study sections for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the March of Dimes (MOD). As a research director, she has mentored dozens of other researchers, and has developed additional expertise in clinical research methodology, leveraging electronic health information and surveillance data for research purposes, and research compliance. Dr. Bailey’s research on addressing tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use during pregnancy is internationally recognized, as is her work on the health and developmental effects on children of prenatal exposure to tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and opioids. Her work has involved both traditional clinical longitudinal studies and epidemiologic and population based efforts involving electronic health data, and state and national databases. She is currently the Principal Investigator on an NIH R01 multi-site study examining the impacts of electronic cigarette using during pregnancy. She is conducting pilot work and pursuing larger scale funding to examine specific health and developmental impacts of prenatal exposure to newer forms of marijuana and to medication assisted treatment drugs for opioid addiction. She views her research as ultimately focused on improving the health and wellbeing of women and children, especially those experiencing health disparities, living in rural areas and/or impacted by addiction.

Jesse Bakke

Jesse Bakke, PhD 
Assistant Professor, Foundational Science

Our laboratory utilizes molecular biology screening technologies, such as CRISPR and siRNA, to identify new protein functions in an effort to understand fundamental biological processes. We currently have an interest in identifying regulators of pancreatic cancer metabolism, drug response, and motility. Additionally, we are also investigating the genomic control of mitochondrial mass in the hopes of identifying proteins that may improve mitochondria (power-house of the cell) function. This may yield insight into potential treatment options for mitochondrial diseases as well as obesity. We are also highly collaborative and involved in projects ranging from virology to nanoparticles. Our research is supported by start-up funds from the College of Medicine. Dr. Bakke provides content expertise in biochemistry, molecular and cell biology, and nutrition in the curriculum.

Harold Bell

Harold Bell, PhD 
Assistant Dean Basic Sciences Curriculum, and Associate Professor, Foundational Science

Dr. Bell's laboratory studies the regulation of breathing and the effect of hypoxia and opioids in preventing augmented breaths and in resuscitation with potential treatments in animal models and human subjects. Dr. Bell’s research has been funded by an Early Career grant from CMU and start-up support from the College of Medicine. Dr. Bell is the co-course director for the cardio-pulmonary course and provides physiology content in the curriculum.

John Blebea

John Blebea, MD 
Discipline Chair, Surgical Sciences and Professor, Surgery

Dr. John Blebea is Professor of Surgery and Chair of Surgical Disciplines at the Central Michigan University College of Medicine. An internationally-recognized vascular surgeon, educator, and researcher. Dr. Blebea has been involved in laboratory and clinical research throughout his career, authoring more than 180 scientific publications and has given more than 600 presentations at numerous scientific conferences. His present research focus is on health outcomes utilizing state and national databases to identify optimal clinical practices and real world patient care.

Ariel Cascio

Ariel Cascio, PhD 
Assistant Professor, Foundational Science

Dr. Cascio’s research program in the social sciences and medicine addresses organizational and institutional factors that impact wellbeing. Major projects focus on autism and neurodiversity, including research on cross-cultural autism services, service preferences, and research ethics. These projects have been funded by the Fulbright IIE Program and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. Dr. Cascio also coordinates M1-M2 research projects through the Society & Community Medicine course.

Michael Conway

Michael Conway, PhD 
Associate Professor, Foundational Science

Dr. Conway has developed a multidisciplinary approach to study the molecular biology, virology, medical entomology, and evolution of arthropod-borne diseases such as dengue and Zika. The development of conventional vaccines for mosquito-borne flaviviruses has been difficult due to the phenomenon of antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) and the co-circulation and emergence of related viruses. Vector control strategies also have limitations that prevent the eradication of disease transmitting arthropods, and targeted treatment options are limited. The Conway laboratory focuses on identifying vector proteins and pathways that are involved in the transmission of arthropod-borne pathogens. Investigation of pathogen-vector-host interactions will lead to the development of transmission-blocking vaccines and therapeutics. His current research uses both in vitro and in vivo approaches, including human subjects research. Current research projects include identification and characterization of mosquito saliva proteins that modify flavivirus dissemination in the vertebrate host, identifying host blood factors that modify flavivirus acquisition in the mosquito, and developing technologies to diagnose and interfere with vector-borne pathogens.

Ute Hochgeschwender

Ute Hochgeschwender, MD 
Professor, Neuroscience Program, Foundational Science 

Dr. Hochgeschwender's laboratory is a leader in the development of transgenic and knock-out mouse models for research. She is presently studying the use of techniques to develop and refine a new set of light-driven technologies for studying neural circuit dynamics based on combining optogenetics with bioluminescence. Dr. Hochgeschwender has NIH and NSF funding for her projects, as well as start-up support from the College of Medicine for her laboratory. Dr. Hochgeschwender provides neuroscience content in the curriculum.

D. Stave Kohtz

D. Stave Kohtz, PhD 
Professor, Foundational Science

Dr. Kohtz's laboratory studies the role of composition and architecture of nuclear pore complexes (NPCs) on the organization of underlying chromatin that contributes to chemo-resistance and reprogramming of ovarian cancer cells between dormant and malignant states, as well as the influence of mitochondrial heterogeneity on tumorigenesis and progression. The laboratory also studies the role of Semaphorin 3A signaling in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Dr. Kohtz has start-up support from the College of Medicine for his laboratory and funding from the Elsa U Pardee Foundation. Dr. Kohtz provides pathophysiology, and cell biology content in the curriculum and is the co-course director for the Reproductive and Human Development Course.

Vicki Mello

Vickie Mello, DO 
Assistant Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Surgical Discipline

Dr. Mello, in collaboration with Dr. Tesler, directs the CenteringPregnancy (CP) program at CMU Health. This program has served as a successful, evidence-based program which has leveraged peer engagement by providing a comfortable group setting and formed supportive relationships among pregnant women (with proximate delivery dates). Topics emphasized in the CP model include labor and delivery, breastfeeding benefits and the importance of care following delivery. They propose to expand this concept to remote sites via digital technology.

Elena Oatey

Elena Oatey, MD 
Assistant Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Surgical Discipline

Dr. Oatey is a site P.I. for the MARCH/ECHO project in which pregnant women are recruited, and blood and urine samples collected from the mothers. At birth, a sample of the placenta and a sample of the baby’s blood is collected. Mother and baby will be followed by surveys and a longitudinal health record.

Jyotsna Pandey

Jyotsna Pandey MD, PhD 
Professor, Foundational Science and Director of Interprofessional Education

As Director of Interprofessional Education (IPE) for the College of Medicine, Dr. Pandey has received support from the Michigan Health Endowment fund and Michigan’s Area VII on Aging to develop IPE curriculum related to fall prevention in the elderly. Dr. Pandey is the co-course director of foundations in medicine and hematology/cology organ systems courses.

Juliette Perzhinsky

Juliette Perzhinsky, MD 
Associate Professor, Internal Medicine

Opioid abuse is an enormous problem in Central and Northern Michigan, Dr. Perzhinsly has received funding from SAMSHA to actively incorporate medication-assisted treatment into the curriculum, and develop and test new models of inter-professional education to more effectively train health care personnel in the proper management of opioid prescriptions.

Robert B. Petersen

Robert B. Petersen, PhD 
Professor, Foundational Sciences and Neuroscience Program

Dr. Petersen’s research has focused on cellular mechanisms for maintaining homeostasis from the initiation of protein synthesis to the aberrant accumulation of misfolded proteins found in neurodegenerative diseases. For his work on post-transcriptional regulation of protein synthesis, regulation of mRNA stability, and the discovery of a novel genetic mechanism that dictates disease phenotype he was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2017. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts with over 10,000 citations. He currently maintains collaborations at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio and Wuhan University, Wuhan, China. Dr. Petersen contributes to cell biology, genetics and neuroscience content in the curriculum.

Rosemary Poku

Rosemary Poku, PhD 
Assistant Professor, Foundational Science

Dr. Poku's laboratory is focused on the regulation of small GTPase directed signal transduction pathways as they relate to development and cancer using human cells in culture. Dr. Poku is the co-course director for the reproductive health and development course and provides pharmacology content in the curriculum.

Delicia Pruitt

Delicia Pruitt, MD 
Associate Professor, Family Medicine

Elderly minority populations are at high risk for not arranging end-of-life (EOL) care and have the lowest rate of completion of advanced directives. Dr. Pruitt is working to reduce disparity of service currently experienced at the end-of-life by offering a better educated medical community and providing patients appropriate communication regarding these difficult choices. The ultimate goal is to ensure that minorities and high risk older adults are better educated on end-of-life choices and to increase the number of completed advanced directives in this patient population.

Neli Ragina

Neli Ragina, PhD 
Associate Professor, Foundational Science and Director of Student and Resident Clinical Research

Dr. Ragina works with faculty, residents and medical students to aid in forming research questions, IRB and grant submissions, and developing presentations. Dr. Ragina is a co-investigator on an NIH R15 grant on disparities in diabetic-induced chronic conditions in the population of Michigan. She and Dr. Rosca have also been supported by a CMU Early Career grant to study the role of fat metabolism in diabetes and its effect on mitochondrial metabolism. Dr. Ragina is the PI of a variety of student-led community education and outcomes projects, including HPV vaccination, opioid use, aortic stenosis, mental health, disabilities and cancer screening.

Sethu Reddy

Sethu Reddy, MD 
Medical Sciences Discipline Chair and Professor, Internal Medicine

Dr. Reddy is a Professor and Chair of Medicine. He has previously been Chief of Adult Diabetes at Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard, in Boston and Chairman of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism at Cleveland Clinic and a VP for Medical Affairs at Merck. Dr. Reddy earned his medical degree in 1980 at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, and completed his fellowship in endocrinology and metabolism at the University of Toronto. His completed a research fellowship in cellular and molecular physiology at Harvard Medical School/Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. In 1988, he returned to Canada to join the Faculties of Medicine and Biochemistry at Dalhousie University. He completed his MBA at Cleveland State University in 2002. Dr. Reddy’s research interests are primarily devoted to clinical endocrinology, including obesity and thyroid disorders, and the epidemiology of diabetes and its complications. He has authored and co-authored more than 150 articles, abstracts, and book chapters concerning these and related topics.

Mariana Rosca

Mariana Rosca, MD 
Associate Professor, Foundational Sciences

Dr. Rosca's laboratory studies the role of mitochondrial function in diabetes and heart disease, and potential therapies for mitochondrial diseases. She receives start-up support from the College of Medicine and has a grant from the American Heart Association. Her work has been funded in the past by a grant from the UMDF foundation. Dr. Rosca is also a co-investigator on an NIH R15 grant on disparities in diabetic-induced chronic conditions in the population of Michigan. She and Dr. Ragina have an Early Career grant to study the role of fat metabolism in diabetes and its effect on mitochondrial metabolism. Dr. Rosca is the co-course director of the renal-endocrinology course and provides pathophysiology and physiology content in the curriculum.

Julien Rossignol

Julien Rossignol, PhD 
Associate Professor, Foundational Sciences

Dr. Rossignol's laboratory is focused on developing stem cell technology and nanoparticle delivery systems as therapies for neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntingdon’s and Alzheimer’s in rodent models. He and others are collaborating on a project using nanoparticles to improve the delivery of CRISPR in cells for genetic editing. Dr. Rossignol's research is supported by start-up funds from the College of Medicine and grants from the American Heart Association and NIH. He has also been supported by an Early Career grant from CMU and past NIH funding through a contract with UC-Davis. His laboratory also obtains funding from Field Neuroscience Institute. Dr. Rossignol is the co-course director of the neuroscience course and provides neuroscience and biochemistry content in the curriculum.

Brian Tesler

Brian Tesler MD 
Assistant Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Surgery Discipline

Dr. Tesler, in collaboration with Dr. Mello, directs the CenteringPregnancy (CP) program at CMU Health. This program has served as a successful, evidence-based program which has leveraged peer engagement by providing a comfortable group setting and formed supportive relationships among pregnant women (with proximate delivery dates). Topics emphasized in the CP model include labor and delivery, breastfeeding benefits and the importance of care following delivery. They propose to expand this concept to remote sites via digital technology.