A Very Special Delivery

Matt Scassero and the team from UMD’s A. James Clark School of Engineering guide the transplant delivery drone through the stages of its historic journey.

In the early hours of April 19, a single drone aircraft flew over Baltimore City destined for the University of Maryland Medical Center. The drone carried time-sensitive, life-saving cargo: a donated kidney. For the patient, a 44-year-old former nurse at The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs who had been on dialysis for eight years, her successful kidney operation represented a second chance. But the debut of the medical-delivery drone is proving to be a historic milestone.

Director of the University of Maryland’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UMD UAS) Test Site Matthew Scassero, M.P.A., ’17, has been involved in the development of this special delivery since its inception. “It all started with a phone call,” Scassero recalls, when two and a half years ago, renowned transplant surgeon Dr. Joseph Scalea contacted him to ask if it was possible to send organs for donation using a drone.

Scassero says he barely blinked before responding. “Even without looking at all the technology regulations or how long it was going to take, my instinct was to say yes,” he recalls.

Scalea reached out to the UMD UAS due to its reputation for cutting-edge drone technology. Still, flying an organ directly to a patient had never been attempted before, and would require extensive problem solving.

In organ donation, “Time is of the essence,” explains Anahita Masoumi, MBA ’15. Masoumi became chief administrative officer and executive director of the Transplant Institute at the University of Chicago in early 2019, after years in the field as both a medical administrator and a transplant nurse. “The success of organ transplants is strongly influenced by the amount of time the organ is out of the organ donor’s body and kept on ice. For every six hours a kidney is out of the donor’s body, the long-term outcome of the kidney declines,” she explains.

Using delivery drones could transform lives, realized Scassero. “So the mission became about that big target: How many more patients can we save?” Scassero says.

In order to make Dr. Scalea’s vision a reality, Scassero drew on his considerable experience—from his early career in the Navy and nonprofit work, all the way through earning his M.P.A. from UB. Multiple groups needed to be connected, from engineering and aviation experts to transplant physicians to the Living Legacy Foundation (an organization that facilitates organ donation and transplantation in Maryland hospitals).

“They made it happen. My biggest job as director is to take credit for what they accomplish,” Scassero jokes.

Step one for the team involved inventing a durable, temperature-controlled vessel with the capability to communicate the condition of the kidney to the ground team. Next, they needed to determine the best way to pilot the drone, all while negotiating for use of airspace with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The successful April delivery was a one-time demonstration of what is possible, not yet a fully implemented system. “Transplant professionals are realistic that use of drones will require a period of development and adjustment, but all agree this is the future,” says Masoumi. She praises drone technology for its potential to ship other critical lifesaving medical supplies, such as equipment, medications and blood.

To Scassero, this flight was a demonstration not only of technology, but of effective public administration skills he strengthened through his experience at UB. “This is policy being flowed down through the technical approaches, the regulatory approaches, and taking something from an idea to a solution that will be part of the healthcare system one day,” he explains. “Every single person we proposed the idea to, their first response was ‘yes.’ That helped us with big problems we had, like flying over the city. People wanted to make this happen.”

To Scassero, one moment of the historic night stands out, “being there both on launch and recovery and seeing the nurses waiting on the roof. When you see those people cheering and faces lighting up, that’s the moment you realize, wow, this is something big.”

Tim Paggi, M.F.A. ’15, is a writer based in Baltimore.

Helping the Underserved

Third year law students Katelyn Kirk and Ryan Frace say they want to contribute to a more culturally informed and equitable society. Over the summer, they worked in non-traditional internships to learn more about the needs of underserved populations and how they could make a difference.

Kirk spent ten weeks in Window Rock, Arizona, helping to address legal issues facing residents of the Navajo Nation. Roughly the size of West Virginia, the Navajo reservation is rural and remote and has culture-specific challenges and its own system of law.

For example, says Kirk, in the 1950s and 1960s many Native children were assigned Anglicized names in population records. This means that the names on their birth certificates may not match those on later documents. Kirk worked to help revise these records to prepare wills for residents. “The Navajo are very tied to their land,” Kirk says. “We want to make sure everything is in order for them to keep their land in their families.”

Katelyn Kirk

Kirk also immersed herself in Navajo culture, attending events like the annual Eastern Navajo Fair. “Every member of the Navajo Nation belongs to a chapter of those to whom they are related. Chapters can be 60-80 miles apart, so these families are huge and they get together for family reunion activities as well as to choose chapter representatives and celebrate the members who have passed on within the last year.”

Equal Justice Works (EJW), an organization that connects new lawyers with communities that need them most, funded Kirk’s work in Arizona. Through EJW, she hopes to continue to work with her mentor Kace Rodwell, a member of the Cherokee Nation, to help children stay with their custodial parents. (According to the National Indian Child Welfare Association, Native children are placed in foster care at a rate 2.7 times greater than that of other U.S. demographics.)

Ryan Frace

“It’s important to me to work under a Native woman who defends parents using the Indian Child Welfare Act,” says Kirk. “We hope to take our legal project to other Native areas in the country, and help to keep children in their homes.”

Frace’s work with Rising for Justice in Washington, D.C., focused in part on international human rights and immigration, issues about which Frace is particularly passionate.

“The first month I conducted intakes and consultation and provided legal resources and limited supervised representation for clients in the Civil Protection Order Project and Landlord-Tenant Court,” he explains. “The latter half of the summer was focused more on representing immigrants detained in ICE custody.”

“I represented two clients who fled from conflict and violence in Central America and sought refuge in the U.S.,” he continues. “That required intensive fact investigation, submitting briefs and appearing in front of the Immigration Court judge to argue for reasonable bond.” Frace was successful in securing bond for both clients.  “They have since been reunified with their families, returned to work and their local communities, and are again actively contributing members of society,” he says.

This experience fuels Frace’s goal to center his legal practice around social justice. Currently, he is on a semester abroad at Pepperdine University in London, taking classes in international law. He will also intern for the U.S. Department of Justice at the U.S. Embassy, which helps satisfy his international and comparative law concentration at UB.

“I have strong aspirations to serve the public, from addressing issues of humanitarian crises and forced migration to national security and the protection of domestic amity,” he says. “I believe we must open our eyes and hearts as far as they will reach.”

Tim Paggi, M.F.A. ’15, is a writer based in Baltimore.

Moving Forward Together

Kari Lindemann, M.A. ’09, used to compete in triathlons. When she was UB’s assistant director of annual giving, she would often arrive at the office on a bike or fresh off of a training run. Ten years ago her colleague Bill Cole, M.A. ’96, then associate vice president of institutional advancement, told her about a new nonprofit called Back on My Feet (BoMF). The group, which organizes runs with residents in transitional homeless and addiction and treatment facilities, was encouraging him to become a volunteer.

“Bill had small children at the time, and it was hard for him to make a 5:30 a.m. run. He said, ‘You should give it a try and let me know what you think,’” Lindemann recalls.

Lindemann signed up, attended orientation and joined a run with volunteers and members of BoMF at The Baltimore Station, a homeless shelter and residential treatment program in South Baltimore. Soon she was running four times a week and helping to plan events.

“I saw our members working hard, transforming their lives and breaking the cycle they had been in,” says Lindemann, who now lives in Newark, Delaware. “I created personal bonds with a lot of members and volunteers—ultimately it was my central community in Baltimore.” Now Lindemann is the national marketing director for BoMF, which has 13 chapters in U.S. cities that include Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Dallas and New York.

Here’s how the program works: participants begin by joining groups for early morning runs (or walks) three times a week, perhaps initially covering just a few city blocks. Gradually they advance to longer distances (over 400 have run marathons), while making commitments to set personalized running and professional goals.

After participating on two morning runs, members get a free pair of new shoes and new running clothes. If they continue for a 30-day period with 90 percent attendance, they can join the group’s “Next Steps” program, which gives them access to resources such as financial literacy training and resume building. They may also receive financial aid for transportation, housing costs, books for school, GED classes, etc.

Lauren Lake, B.A. ’13, J.D. ’16, has also seen how BoMF helps its members move forward. Lake is an associate in the litigation practice at Gordon Feinblatt in Baltimore. A cross-country runner, she began volunteering for BoMF during her senior year of high school. Lake planned to work in publishing until her experiences with the organization showed her how participants’ lives could be improved by things like legal expungement clinics.

“Our executive director at the time was a lawyer, and she was able to help navigate many difficult situations for our members,” Lake recalls. “That made me realize how valuable that skill set and knowledge is. Whether you’re working in a nonprofit or on a nonprofit board—which is something that a lot of attorneys do—there are so many ways to give back.”

Both Lindemann and Lake say that setting and achieving incremental goals in their running practices has led to improvements in other areas of their lives. BoMF staff and volunteers hope that participating in the program can similarly motivate members who may be struggling. It doesn’t always work; people may relapse and try again. But at 5:30 a.m. as CEOs, college students and young and retired professionals run alongside members through the streets of Baltimore, they’re all just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.

“The organization is an amazing equalizer and provides a wonderful, supportive safety net,” Lake says. “When times are tough, you’re going to have people who are there to catch up with you and check in to make sure everything is okay. No matter where you are and what you’re doing, if you run those miles side by side, you’ve accomplished something together.”

To date, says Lindemann, BoMF members’ achievements add up to more than 6,500 jobs and homes. “Our members have the capacity to achieve the extraordinary, but sometimes they just need a hand up to do it,” she says. “Celebrating with them as they succeed in running a certain distance, getting a degree, getting promoted or starting their own business is incredibly rewarding. Seeing their self-confidence grow, to see them realize they can achieve, all while the volunteers are cheering them on, that’s really magical.”  

Jared Brey is a writer based in Philadelphia.

A Venture for Good

STATS

  • Eight Real Estate Venture Fellows
  • Ten weeks of study
  • Five plans for new development in Baltimore
  • Nearly $2 million in funding for proposed real estate projects

Imagine conceiving a plan to revitalize a Baltimore neighborhood and provide access to modern, affordable housing—and then getting the resources, support and potential financial backing to make your project a reality. That was the experience of the inaugural class of UB’s Real Estate Venture Fellows, a program that addresses critical development needs in Baltimore’s middle market neighborhoods.

Seema Iyer, director of UB’s Real Estate and Economic Development program, says providing training to people who are interested in building their own entrepreneurial real estate businesses serves the community in several ways.

“We have students and alumni at UB who have bought one or two homes to renovate and flip, but haven’t made the successful transition into making that a viable development company,” Iyer explains. “Giving students the expertise to develop a plan, as well as connecting them with possible sources of capital, benefits them because they have the potential to start a business. It benefits investors who are looking for projects, and it helps Baltimore and the neighborhoods we’re serving.”

The first cadre of Fellows included students and alumni Olusegun Aje, M.S. ’17; William Casey; Joao David Garcia Ferraz; Tiffany Green; Janna Holmes, M.P.A. ’13; Nikolay Ratajczak, B.S. ’14; Haydon Wyatt and Leslie Wynn. The intensive 10-week program took them through all aspects of developing a project.

“Among other topics, we covered concept and design, choosing a site, typical pitfalls and problems developers encounter, and how to complete applications for financing,” explains Iyer. “Our board of advisors for the Real Estate program served as mentors to the students, as did other volunteers from the Baltimore real estate industry.”

The Fellows also toured neighborhoods to learn about community-specific goals and needs. “It’s very important that these projects be community-oriented, instead of the residents feeling like someone is coming in from the outside and projecting a vision onto them,” Iyer explains.

The capstone of the Fellows’ experience was the “Pitch for a Million” competition. Individually or as teams, Fellows presented their development plans at a public event in June. Judges, including representatives from M&T Bank and the Cordish Company, among others, decided which teams would be awarded up to $1 million in a Guidance Line of Credit from Baltimore Community Lending (BCL). BCL is a community development financial institution that invests in underserved neighborhoods in the city.

Iyer and William Ariano, President of BCL, conceived of the competition over several years to connect would-be developers with the kind of alternative financing that BCL provides. Three of the Fellows’ five proposals were selected to
move forward to a vetting process, for a total pledge of nearly $2 million in potential funding.

Fellow Tiffany Green, who is a candidate in UB’s Master of Public Administration program, had her $350,000 plan to rehabilitate three homes in Forest Park approved. During her training, she was particularly struck by the impact that becoming embedded in a community has on a project’s success: “We worked with residents to get their perspective on how best to invest in their neighborhoods. I learned so much from members of the Forest Park Neighborhood Alliance.”

When Green learned about the opportunity to become a Fellow, she says she was determined to participate. “I’ve been aided by affordable housing, and members of my family have too,” she explains. “Having that access changes people’s lives.”


Thank You

Sponsors of Pitch for a Million and the Fellows program include Baltimore Community Lending, M&T Bank, The Cordish Companies, Seawall Development and the UB Real Estate and Economic Development Advisory Board


A supervisor in Frederick County public schools who works with disadvantaged youth, Green says her friends and her young daughter can see how passionate she is about development. “My supervisor said to me, ‘Tiff, you just light up when you talk about this,’” she recalls.

Fellow Nikolay Ratajczak, B.S. ’14, has been developing real estate since he graduated and also owns a small mortgage company and a title company. Ratajczak’s $1 million proposal to rehabilitate 10 townhomes in the Upton neighborhood, based on an award-winning white paper he wrote during his time at UB, was another plan that was approved to move forward.

“My idea is to create a development system for townhouse clusters, one-block areas that use scalable strategies and provide different solutions for mixed-income housing options,” he explains. “Ideally this model can be applied to dozens, if not hundreds, of clusters in multiple locations.”

Ratajczak says he has always been interested in what he calls “areas of opportunity” in Baltimore, blighted neighborhoods that are located next to more successful ones. “As someone who has been involved in development work, I know the various silos of legal, financial and neighborhood considerations can be daunting,” he says. “The Fellows program provides a great prototype to tackle these real-world challenges.”

Iyer is also associate director of UB’s Jacob France Institute and oversees the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance, which conducts and shares comprehensive research on the health of Baltimore’s neighborhoods through its Vital Signs report. Vital Signs evaluates more than 150 quality-of-life indicators, describes economic and social issues, and supports positive policy change.

“The Real Estate Fellows program is the perfect way to connect our students’ passion about Baltimore into meaningful change and a long-term business,” Iyer said. “I can’t wait to see the transformation over time in both their businesses and in our neighborhoods.”

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Fellow Joao David Garcia Ferraz. David was pursuing his B.S. in Real Estate and Economic Development. His professors and fellow students knew him as smart, driven, hopeful and someone who always had a smile. We offer our sincere condolences to David’s family and friends.

Paula Novash is managing editor of the magazine.

Tune into learn more about the Real Estate Venture Fellows and the Pitch for  a Million competition.

UB Certificate Programs: A Path to Possibilities

Want to enhance your expertise and prepare for new opportunities? Consider a UB certificate program. Whether you are transitioning to a different profession or seeking to advance in your chosen one, certificate programs provide the most up-to-date skills and information in specialty areas.

Each of our four schools offer certificates, with flexible schedules for on-campus and online courses. Visit the UB website to learn more about how these programs can help you stay current in your field, expand your knowledge or discover new areas that interest you.


MERRICK SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

Undergraduate Certificate
Accounting

Graduate Certificates
Accounting Fundamentals
Business Valuation
Government Financial Management
Internal Audit Services
Business Fundamentals
Organizational Leadership

SCHOOL OF LAW

Certificate in Estate Planning
Certificate in Family Law



YALE GORDON COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES

Undergraduate Certificates
Computer Programming
Cybersecurity

Graduate Certificates
Digital Communication
Digital Media Production
Global Industrial and Organizational Psychology
Professional Counseling Studies
User Experience (UX) Design

COLLEGE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Undergraduate Certificates
Crime Scene Investigation
Forensic Document Analysis

Graduate Certificates
Health Systems Management
Trauma-Informed Certificate
Public Safety Leadership

 

 


Castell Abner, Jr., CERT ’19

I’m a seasoned student and want to learn from the best. In the family law certificate program, almost all of my professors had at least a decade of experience in the field. I thought, what better way to learn than from people who are doing this work every day?

The program takes you through every phase of family law, from preparing all aspects of a case to presenting in front of a judge to the steps for setting up a practice. Having that detailed, specialized knowledge post-JD just confirmed my opinion that UB is where I need to be. Now I’m pursing the certificate in estate planning with the goal of better advocating for clients who are in danger of losing assets.


Castell Abner, Jr., LL.M., J.D., MBA, M.S., CERT ’19, has had a varied career that includes positions at a Big 8 accounting firm, a Fortune 500 corporation, and as a university professor. He also spent 30 years in Special Enforcement at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, specializing in tax law. Since his retirement from the public sector, he has served as a consultant in labor law and is doing pro bono work in family law for Maryland Legal Aid.


Kiyona Miah, M.P.A. ’10, CERT ’14

I had planned a career in counseling psychology but changed direction and now work in the public sector. My graduate certificate in strategic management and public accountability systems provided a variety of course offerings to prepare me for a role in project management.

I was impressed with how I was able to immediately implement what I was studying. Plus I had a network of professors and classmates as sounding boards as I grew in my new position and balanced the demands of my courses with working full time. I credit the Certificate program for helping me advance and become a leader in my organization.


Kiyona Miah, PMP, CSM, BRMP, M.P.A. ’10, CERT ’14 is an information technology specialist at the U.S. Census Bureau. She serves as a liaison between different IT divisions and business partners to align services and strategy for the organization. Miah is currently detailed to the U.S. Department of Commerce, serving in a similar role.

The Advantages of Being Prepared

As a law clerk for Baltimore Circuit Judge Julie R. Rubin, Adanna Smith, J.D. ’19, routinely juggles the preparation of as many as 16 hearings in a week. “We do significant work to give the judge as much information as possible on the cases she has scheduled,” Smith explains.

She has seen the advantages of being prepared in her own life, Smith says, from as far back as elementary school when she was a regular participant in oratorical competitions. And at UB, she further developed her ability to gather and synthesize reams of information while pursuing another goal: competing in Moot Court competitions.

In Moot Court, law students gain experience at litigation by preparing substantive briefs and arguing before a judge. And here’s a twist: the students don’t know which side of the case they are representing until they are taking part in the competition. “We write a 35-page brief and develop arguments for one side—and at the same time, look for weak spots to counter it,” Smith says.

Smith has clearly mastered these challenges: she won Best Oral Advocate at the National Black Law Students Association’s Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition in March, as well as first place and Best Oral Advocate at the regional competition in February. She says that her Moot Court experience has honed skills that will help her with her goals moving forward.

“UB did a wonderful job of helping me become well versed in legal authority, and my professors always encouraged me to pursue out-of-the-classroom experiences,” she says. “I know that if I prep enough, I am able to solve any problem.”

Smith was able to participate in Moot Court thanks to alumni generously supporting the School of Law Annual Giving Fund. Your gift to the school, college, or program of your choice through the Annual Fund provides opportunities for UB students to participate in a variety of activities. By supporting these programs, you make it possible for students to pursue their dreams and benefit our society in myriad ways.

To invest in UB students, visit ubalt.edu/support or send your gift in the postage paid envelope included in this magazine.

For more information, contact
the Office of Philanthropy
at 410.837.6217 or
annualgiving@ubalt.edu.

Leading the Pursuit of Wellness: Michael Bronfein, B.S. ’77

BIO

  • B.S., University of Baltimore
  • Entrepreneur in finance,
    health care and technology
  • Chief executive officer, Curio Wellness
  • Established Bronfein Scholars Fund,
    Merrick School of Business
Michael Bronfein and his daughter Wendy Bronfein at Curio Wellness

Michael Bronfein, B.S. ’77, says he’s always made up his own mind. “I had a strong will as a kid,” he recalls with a laugh. “My mother would say to me, ‘Don’t you ever listen to anybody?’ The answer to that is yes, now that I’ve gained some wisdom—I care a lot more about being effective than being correct.”

His approach is clearly effective: over several decades Bronfein has spearheaded highly successful entrepreneurial ventures in industries that include health care and technology development. “I like being a decision-maker,” he says. “Taking responsibility for success or failure is important to me.”

Bronfein began his multifaceted career in finance, earning his UB degree in accounting while newly married and working full time. “I never intended to be a practicing accountant, but the degree and my CPA license proved valuable in commercial banking and gave me options for the future,” he says.

While on track to become a bank president in the early 1990s, Bronfein and his wife Jessica (the couple have been married 44 years) decided he should embrace a new opportunity. Together with his brother-in-law, he founded Neighborcare, which pioneered the integrated model of pharmacy service for long-term and managed care patients. Within seven years the company grew from $12 million in revenue to $1.1 billion. Bronfein moved on to co-found the private equity fund Sterling Partners and Remedi Senior Care, among other ventures.

Bronfein was semi-retired and living in Florida in 2013 when his daughter Wendy, a television producer, suggested that he consider becoming a part of the fledgling medical cannabis industry in Maryland. “Initially I was reluctant, but then I thought, this is a hypergrowth industry that can improve peoples’ lives, and it could be a lot of fun working with my daughters,” he recalls.

After several years of due diligence, extensive international research and competing for licensing, Bronfein is now chief executive officer of Curio Wellness, the market-leading medical cannabis brand in Maryland. Curio cultivates, processes and dispenses medical cannabis from its 60,000-foot plus facility in Lutherville. Besides organically growing more than 24 varieties of cannabis plants and transforming the flowers into forms such as tinctures and tablets, the company sells its products to over 80 medicinal cannabis dispensaries across the state. Curio also dispenses directly to patients through its Wellness Center in Timonium, in addition to offering holistic treatments that include vitamins, supplements, acupuncture, yoga and therapeutic massage.

“We see the merits of both Eastern complementary medicine and the more research-based Western approach,” says Bronfein. “Our credo is ‘Leading the pursuit of wellness’ and we want to make certain this product is used safely and responsibly to improve quality of life.” Recent innovations from Curio’s team include a line of medicated chews, and the list is growing rapidly.

Curio is a family business, with co-founder Wendy Bronfein serving as marketing director and her sister Rebecca Raphael director of sales. Bronfein’s son David, J.D. ’17, a lawyer in private practice, provides legal services to the company. But, says Bronfein, the culture at Curio is family oriented in another important way. “Our team is 80 percent millennials, and our stated goal is to develop people to their highest potential and promote from within,” he explains. “We want our Curio family to grow and develop their careers so they can remain with the company and benefit from its success.”

In 1999, the Bronfeins established the Arthur G. Bronfein Scholars Fund (renamed the Bronfein Scholars Fund in 2015) in the Merrick School of Business. “It’s a tribute to my father’s dedication to diversity and empowering economic success through accounting,” he says.

The scholarships are also a way to give back, Bronfein continues. “UB was instrumental in giving me the raw material to become what I’ve become. When you look around Baltimore today, many of the most successful lawyers and business people are UB graduates. Perhaps there’s a reason for that?”  

Paula Novash is managing editor of the magazine.