Gives His Brother “A Second Chance at Life”
By Carol Olechowski
University at Albany graduate student Mark Sykes how he’s feeling, and
he responds cheerily, “Better every day!” What’s even more encouraging
to the Ohio native, however, is that his older brother Brian is also doing
“better every day” - thanks to the kidney Mark donated to him in early
When Mark learned that Brian
needed an organ transplant, he didn’t hesitate to offer to donate one of
his own kidneys.
“My brother is sick. If I
can do anything for him, I will,” was his first reaction.
“I didn’t think about the
consequences,” adds the Ohio Wesleyan University graduate, who enrolled
in Albany’s Ph.D. program in clinical psychology last fall and has been
working with Center for Stress and Anxiety Disorders Director Edward B.
Blanchard since the summer of 1999. Among the consequences, of course,
were the obvious: the risks of surgery he and his brother would face, and
the possibility that Brian’s body would reject the transplanted kidney.
Less obvious were the consequences that might impact a student going for
medical tests and undergoing surgery - while studying for his degree and
working with Blanchard at the center.
Happily, “my professors were very understanding,”
recalls Mark, who was attracted to the University because it “has one of
the best programs in clinical psychology and because Ed Blanchard is doing
some great things, like post-traumatic stress disorder research.” The faculty
“helped a lot. I tried to get as prepared as I could before I left for
the surgery, because I knew I wouldn’t be doing any work afterward. And
Ed was terrific; I owe him a lot of credit. He was very supportive.”
Brian, 27, developed
kidney disease as a teenager but, until about a year ago, was doing well,
according to Mark. At that time, the Orlando, Florida-based filmmaker was
becoming weaker and very tired, and a nephrologist predicted that he would
require dialysis. Within a matter of weeks, that prediction came true.
When it became clear
that Brian would require a transplant, Mark, his other two brothers, and
their parents underwent tests to determine which of them had the best chance
of donating a kidney that would not be rejected. “I matched five of the
six antigens,” remembers Mark. “And I was motivated; I realized Brian’s
health was at stake.”
The surgery, performed March
2, was successful. Although Brian has been re-admitted to the hospital
once, doctors are monitoring his progress and are optimistic that the kidney
will continue to function normally. “The first six months to two years
are critical,” Mark points out. “I hope every day that the kidney will
continue to work.”
Mark himself underwent a laparoscopy,
in which an optical instrument is inserted through the incision to permit
the surgeon to view the abdominal cavity. “The doctor took my kidney out
through my stomach. That hurt,” he says with characteristic understatement.
He spent five days in the hospital, and even “made a little bit of medical
history” as the first laparoscopic surgical patient in central Florida.
“That’s my claim to fame,” jokes Mark, who has resumed his studies since
returning to New York three weeks ago.
He modestly turns aside any
suggestion that he is heroic. “A lot of people have been giving me credit.
But I’ve thought about everything my brother went through and everything
he faces every day, and I feel he’s more courageous than I am,” Mark observes.
Brian might disagree. A few
weeks ago, he sent his brother an ultrasound photo of his new kidney. Mark
carries it with him. The inscription on the back reads: “Dear Mark: I could
never thank you enough for giving me a second chance at life. Love always,
|3+2 Engineering Program Doubles
Opportunity for Liana Rodriguez
By Greta Petry
Junior Liana Rodriguez thinks everyone should know about
the 3+2 program in engineering which UAlbany offers in conjunction with
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
In this program, students complete three years at
UAlbany, majoring in either chemistry or physics, and then transfer to
Rensselaer’s School of Engineering to study an additional two years. When
finished, the student has a bachelor’s degree from UAlbany in chemistry
or physics, as well as an engineering degree from Rensselaer.
“I just want students to know that there are a lot
of opportunities out there that aren’t advertised, especially for minority
students. You need to look for these opportunities, and if you don’t see
an opportunity, make one,” said Rodriguez, whose parents were born in New
York and are of Puerto Rican descent.
A resident of the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and
a native of the Bronx, Rodriguez found out about the 3+2 program through
her older brother Mark, who finished the program in 1997. Raised in a family
where education was stressed, (her father is a systems engineer with several
advanced degrees and her mother, a kindergarten teacher, has a master’s
degree in education) she saw her brother become a senior programmer analyst
on Wall Street as a result of the 3+2 program.
“He can do anything with a computer. He’s a whiz,”
she said. “My brother really encouraged me and helped me out with my work
when I needed it. He’s been my No. 1 fan since Day One.” He also introduced
her to Dawn Kakumba, who has been her adviser.
Liana Rodriguez said earning two degrees will add
to her marketability after graduation. “Unemployment is very low right
now and technology jobs are booming,” she said. “I am not worried about
getting a job.”
The junior explained how the program works. “Your
first years are the same for the major and besides that, you fill the general
education requirements. For the first three years I am a chemistry major,
and I also take upper level physics, which is required for the engineering
major. I will also finish some chemistry classes for the degree at RPI.
I will take a leave of absence during my last two years, and will use that
time to complete the engineering requirements at RPI. You can choose the
type of engineering you want. I will graduate with a B.S. in chemistry
from UAlbany and a biomedical engineering degree from RPI.”
Rodriguez is also considering attend- ing graduate
or medical school after graduation from Rensselaer.
Students are formally admitted to Rensselaer after
their fifth semester of study, according to the Undergraduate Bulletin.
Admission is based on the recommendation of the UAlbany chemistry or physics
department and the student’s grade point average, which should be about
a B+. For more information, contact the Advisement Services
Cen-ter/Undergraduate Studies office in ULB-36.
“We’ve gotten some really wonderfully prepared students
through the 3+2 program,” said Kathleen Stacey, associate dean and director
of transfer admissions at Rensselaer. Stacey herself is a UAlbany alumna,
having earned a B.A. in 1985 and an M.S. in 1988.
While Rodriguez loved chemistry in high school,
it was her experience at UAlbany that crystallized her interest.
“I don't want to be a typical role model,” Rodriguez
said. “I just did something I am passionate about. If you are passionate
about something, you are going to do well in it, and you are going to be
The 3+2 program exposes UAlbany students to opportunities
at both universities. Rodriguez went to a Rensselaer career fair last year,
where she learned about a paid internship with Corning Inc.
“I worked at a good job last summer, a paid internship,” she said.
“I went out there and made my opportunity. I put myself out there. You
have to start somewhere and make your own way.”
In order to earn college credit for the internship,
Rodriguez said she worked out a plan with Professor Paul Toscano of the
Department of Chemistry through UNI 390.
“I reported to him (Professor Toscano). I
didn’t know about this opportunity until Dawn Kakumba told me about it.
They will let you do this if it is a meaningful project.” To find out more
about internships at UAlbany, see Ivan Edelson in the Dean of Undergraduate
Studies Office. As part of her internship Rodriguez conducted electro-optics
research in the photonics division at Corning.
UAlbany also has 3+2 engineering programs with Binghamton
University’s Watson School of Engineering, the SUNY College of Arts and
Sciences at New Paltz, and with Clarkson College in Potsdam.
|UAlbany Doctoral Student Wins
Adam Haim, 25, a third-year doctoral student in the
clinical psychology program, has won the student research award from the
National Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy. The award
was for the Autism and Related Develop-mental Disabilities Special Interest
Haim is a New Jersey native who earned his bachelor’s
degree at the University of Rochester. The award was for a poster Haim
presented based on a paper about a research project teaching alternative
communication methods to deaf and blind children.
“UAlbany has a renowned program in clinical psychology.
It is behaviorally based and is pretty strong in that. It’s a great program
- the faculty are really approachable. I work for Dr. (V. Mark) Durand;
he is at the forefront of research in developmental disabilities,” Haim
Haim and his lab partners, Eileen Merges and Christie
Tanner, have been working with deaf and blind children in New York City
and teaching them alternative methods of communication. “If a child engages
in problem behaviors, we assess the function of the behavior and teach
the child to communicate his or her needs. What we have found is that as
communication increases, problem behaviors decrease,” he said.
The project was conducted at a school in Manhattan.
UAlbany graduate students involved in the project also instructed teachers
at the school in how to use augmentive communication devices.
||UAlbany Faculty and Students
Provide High-Tech Training for Urban Youth, Community Groups
By Greta Petry
UAlbany’s School of Education
has received two grants for separate programs that promote high-tech training
in inner city neighborhoods in Albany.
The first grant, for $96,000
from the State Education Department, is being used to reinstate the Science,
Technology Entry Program (STEP). In this program, UAlbany graduate students
are teaching in the after-school program at Livingston and Hackett
middle schools. STEP enhances the knowledge of middle school students through
the Web, multi-media CD-ROM technology, video production and desk-top publishing.
“We are focusing on using
technology-based programs as a hook to get students excited about science,
math and English,” said Joseph Bowman Jr., an assistant professor in the
School of Education’s Department of Educational Theory and Practice. Bowman
teaches video production, Web page design, and a seminar in technology
and education at UAlbany. Through the SUNY Learning Network, he also teaches
popular on-line courses for the master’s degree program in curriculum development
and instructional technology.
“STEP is teaching urban youth
at an early age about particular opportunities and careers they may want
to pursue. We’re dealing with students who don’t all believe they are going
to college. Our goal is to get them into the college environment early
on,” Bowman said.
The state-funded STEP program
began in 1985 but was not operational last year, Bowman said. “Assistant
Vice President Carl Martin and the State Education Department called me
and asked me to restart the program. In addition to providing the middle
school youth with experience, we are offering training for three of our
graduate students in instructional technology, who are serving as instructors.
We also have one or two students from other colleges who are in education.”
Bowman wears another hat as
director of the Center for Urban Youth and Technology. “The center is designed
to develop technology-based programs for urban youth and adults, and it
falls nicely within that area,” Bowman said. “It also develops collaborations
between University departments and schools and community organizations,
and is part of my research theme, ‘The Urban Cyberspace Initiative.’ ”
The second grant to UAlbany
- at $92,000 for the first of three years - is part of 100 Black Men’s
Community Technology Center Grant. The funds will be used to expand a technology
network and strengthen the telecommunications infrastructure to allow for
desk-top video teleconferencing among sites that include urban churches,
schools, and non-profit organizations.
“In 1996 I wrote the first
grant, working with the group 100 Black Men, to establish a technology
center in Albany and to link nine sites in the Capital Region. Since then
we have developed a technology center and are in the final stages of linking
them all,” Bowman said.
“So we are expanding the network
to include ten sites. In addition, the University is working with the partners
and empowering them to use the technology,” Bowman said. “We put
four to five small computers in their facility and discuss programs they
want to do.”
As part of the project, Department
of Geography and Planning Professor Ray Bromley is developing a summer
program to train 30 students and adults in Web design, PowerPoint, and
the use of a digital camera. In addition, they will learn to research their
community and introduce geographic information systems capabilities.
“We will have the students
look at a particular area in Albany, possibly the Clinton Avenue corridor
where the technology center is. They will canvass that area, photograph
it, identify where the pay phones are, check the number and location of
traffic accidents, and this will help them create an asset map of that
area,” Bowman said.
“My focus is to produce a
group of students who are looking into high-end fields of technology, like
computer graphics. Between Ray and myself, we want the students to consider
the fields of architecture, education, engineering and instructional technology.
We will also try to develop a community of students and adults who are
responsible to the needs of their community, who can look at the community
from different perspectives and then determine how they might change their
community for the better,” Bowman added.
“In addition, One Hundred
Black Men has the goal of making the center financially sustainable so
that it can provide economic opportunity to the city of Albany by empowering
participants to use technology,” Bowman said.
He said the group is also
looking into how to establish a Cisco training site in the city of Albany
that would train high school juniors and seniors to be certified Cisco
technicians in router and networking technology. One training center already
exists in Schenectady.
Professor Shirley Jones has
been asked to develop a research design model on how to improve and empower
“She is one of the premier
people in action research - our goal is to develop an action research model,”
All of the professors involved
have at least one graduate student working on the project. A few undergraduates
are involved as well.
Sociologist Haywood Horton
will be the project evaluator for both the CTC and the STEP program. He
will conduct assessments to test whether the programs are meeting the objectives
and outcomes they set for themselves.
Masterplan Faculty &
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