Woman on tanning bed


Thirty-five percent of adults and 55 percent of college students (the overwhelming majority Caucasian women) have used tanning beds, which have accounted for close to 420,000 cases of skin cancer in the United States.

Alumni Foundations for Better Health

A little-known reality is the number of women who die each year from giving birth, a fact that Ryan Hansen LC’04 learned about tragically after his wife, Tara, died suddenly six days after their son, Brandon, was born. Postpartum complications can stem from diabetes, high blood pressure, infection, or hemorrhaging and kill almost 1,000 women in the United States each year. In memory of his wife, Hansen founded the Tara Hansen Foundation to raise awareness of maternal death. Funds from his nonprofit helped underwrite the conference “To Have and to Hold: Maternal Safety and the Delivery of Patient Care,” which was held at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School last fall. “Tara was a teacher, and I felt it was the best way to carry on her legacy,” Hansen says. — Lisa Intrabartola

For further information, visit tarahansenfoundation.com.

David Pal ENG’11 and Elizabeth Diaz SEBS’12 have created a scholarship, Marna’s Pals, in memory of Pal’s mother and Diaz’s grandfather, both victims of cancer who died while Pal and Diaz were students. Last year, it awarded scholarships, which are available to New Jersey high school and college students, totaling $2,500; this year, their plan is to give $10,000. The organization also wants to start support groups for Rutgers students with family members fighting cancer. “When my mom passed away after battling pancreatic cancer, I had just started college,” says Pal. “Thanks to the support from Rutgers, I was able to continue studying without working a side job. This scholarship will allow students to cope with the cancer and schoolwork.”

For further information, visit marnaspals.com.

Mapping the Brain to Find Parkinson’s

The National Institutes of Health has turned to James M. Tepper, a professor of neuroscience at Rutgers University–Newark, by giving him a five-year, $3.4 million grant to investigate Parkinson’s disease, which affects more than six million people worldwide. In particular, he will continue his examination of the circuitry and function of the striatum, the largest portion of the basal ganglia, which is a set of structures below the cerebral cortex. It has a role in voluntary motor behavior as well as cognition, learning and memory, emotion, and motivation. Parkinson’s stems from a constellation of genes, making it difficult to pinpoint genetic defects and produce gene-based therapies to reverse them. Mapping the circuitry of the brain may be the most promising option, for now. — Rob Forman

The Deadly Cost of a Tan

Even though tanning booths have been cited for causing skin cancer, 35 percent of adults and 55 percent of college students (the overwhelming majority Caucasian women) use them, often regularly. Why would anybody risk developing melanoma, the most deadly of skin cancers? The National Cancer Institute has given a career development grant to Jerod L. Stapleton, a behavioral scientist at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and an assistant professor of medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, to find the answers. Stapleton and his team will spend two years interviewing regular users of tanning booths to better understand their motivations. Stapleton’s preliminary research suggests that vanity is the main culprit, as is developing a tanning dependency because the exposure to ultraviolet radiation can promote pleasing physiological effects. Stapleton also wants to develop interventions, where other approaches have failed, that will resonate with tanners and dissuade them from using tanning beds, which, according to a study in JAMA Dermatology, have accounted for close to 420,000 cases of skin cancer in the United States. — Patti Verbanas