Wheeling Jesuit University

New Urologic Research Institute to Provide Hands-on Learning and Internship Opportunities for WJU Students

Wheeling Jesuit University students and professors will play a key role in the new Wheeling Hospital Urologic Research Institute.
A joint initiative among WJU, the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation, and the Schiffler Cancer Center, the Institute will focus on innovative research methods directed toward the effective prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of prostate cancer and other urologic disorders.

University President Joseph R. Hacala, S.J., joined with U.S. Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, Schiffler Cancer Research Center Director Dr. Gregory S. Merrick, and Joseph Allen of the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation for the announcement of the Institute’s formation on March 6 at Wheeling Hospital. Dr. Merrick, affiliate associate professor of physics at WJU, will serve as the Institute’s Executive Director.

“We are pleased to join with Congressman Mollohan, the Schiffler Cancer Institute and the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation on this important initiative,” says Rev. Hacala. “Dr. Merrick is widely regarded for his pioneering research and treatment of prostate cancer patients. The Urologic Research Institute will enable him and his team to bring an even sharper focus to their work, and position Wheeling as a leader in the fight against this devastating disease. Our professors and students will contribute to this effort, too.”

Several WJU professors will serve as research associates at the Institute, including Dr. Jonathan Lief of WJU’s Department of Biology, and Dr. Robert W. Galbreath, adjunct professor of physical therapy. Zachariah Allen, who received a B.S. in chemistry and physics from WJU in 1996, is a research associate at the Institute.

The University established a concentration in dosimetry and medical physics for physics majors. The concentration will include two courses taught by the Wheeling Hospital staff--one at Wheeling hospital and one at the campus.

“This is a rather unique opportunity for our physics majors, who will have opportunities to do cutting-edge research and internships at the hospital, and they will learn from the country’s leading urologic radiation oncologists. Patients from 29 states and 10 foreign countries have sought Dr. Merrick’s expertise for treating prostate cancer,” says Dr. Peter Ehni, chair of WJU’s Department of Physics.

The National Cancer Institute reports that prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer (excluding skin cancer) and the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men in the United States. The West Virginia Cancer Registry indicates that cancer of the prostate was the most commonly diagnosed cancer in West Virginia men during 1998-2003, and prostate cancer was among the second-leading cause of cancer-related mortality in men in West Virginia during 1998-2002, accounting in 1 in 10 male cancer deaths.

While prostate cancer is a primary focus of the Urologic Research Institute, Dr. Merrick and his team also are interested in other urologic disorders including testicular cancer.

The WVHTC, Congressman Mollohan explained, provided $20,000 last year to assist Dr. Merrick in planning the Institute and charting its development. Congressman Mollohan created the WVHTC Foundation as a way to promote technology innovation for the economic diversification of northern West Virginia.

“My team and I have been conducting groundbreaking research for years, but we needed to create an entity that would better allow us to promote, raise funds for and achieve our goals. We are grateful to Wheeling Jesuit University, the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation, and the Schiffler Cancer Center at Wheeling Hospital for helping to make this Institute a reality,” says Dr. Merrick.

Wheeling Jesuit University is a leader in academics, athletics, and for making a high-quality private education accessible. With more than 30 undergraduate and six graduate programs to choose from, WJU offers students an education for life, leadership and service, providing the foundation to succeed in a career or in graduate school. Many of the Catholic university’s programs have 100 percent placement rates in graduate programs across the country. Since 1995, U.S. News & World Report has ranked Wheeling Jesuit University among the top institutions in its “Best Master’s Universities in the South” category.

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