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Grad students put medical school on hold to bring their startup to life

“As soon as I heard it, I saw the potential it has,” said Kashyap Venuthurupalli, who graduated in May. “It could change premature babies’ lives.”

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By Leila Ugincius

It had been on her mind for decades.

As a pediatric nurse practitioner, Debra Hearington had seen her share of infants in isolettes — a special incubator for preemies that measures and regulates certain vitals, such as oxygen, temperature, and humidity. And she had seen the frustratingly anachronistic covers used on these modern incubators.

Nurses cover the machines with cloth, such as blankets, to reduce light and stimulation inside. There’s no uniformity to the fabric as far as material or size. Some families even make their own. In addition to being a poor light regulator, they present infection risks.

With the isolette covered, babies can’t see out, but nurses also can’t see in.

“A baby in a [neonatal intensive care unit] can become unstable at any time,” said Hearington, who specializes in neurology at VCU Health. “And I used to hate it when I was working there … when an alarm would go off and you’d have to go and move the cover [to see what was happening]. The whole thing is, you can’t visualize the baby if there’s a cover on the isolette.”

So when Hearington received an email last year from the VCU College of Engineering requesting clinical problems or ideas that its students could use as their yearlong Capstone Design projects, she immediately knew what to submit: the problem of the poorly devised isolette covers.

Four biomedical engineering students chose her project.

“As soon as I heard it, I saw the potential it has,” said Kashyap Venuthurupalli, who graduated in May. “It could change premature babies’ lives.”

Venuthurupalli has wanted to work in the medical field since middle school when he spent more than 400 hours volunteering at a New Hampshire hospital.

“I would mainly transfer patients back and forth from the ICU, stuff like that,” he said. “But I knew that the environment was something I definitely wanted to be part of. … My end goal is to make people’s lives better. And I thought I could help people by doing medicine.”

While an undergraduate student, Venuthurupalli always planned to attend medical school. However, after spending his senior year working on the capstone project — ultimately named the Brise-solette — he changed his mind, as did his teammates Aniket Kulkarni, Chandana Muktipaty and Joshnamaithili Seelam.

The Brise-solette uses special film to limit light stimuli efficiently from opaque to transparent and is easily programmable to serve a vast array of functions. The name is derived from the words brise-soleil — the architectural term for a device that provides shade — and isolette.

The four classmates agreed to continue the project after graduating in May. They currently are enrolled in the Master of Product Innovation program at the VCU da Vinci Center, a collaboration of the Schools of the Arts and Business, and Colleges of Engineering and Humanities and Sciences that advances innovation and entrepreneurship.

“At the beginning of the capstone project, I didn’t think we would be taking this any further than trying to get an A in the class,” Muktipaty said. “To me, it wasn’t even an option at the time.”

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RPS to close January 27th after more than 700 teachers request off to attend Fund Our Future rally

Richmond Public Schools may be closed today for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, but next week will also be a four day week for students and teachers after more than 700 faculty members requested off work to protest at the Fund Our Future rally at the State Capitol.

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Richmond Public Schools may be closed today for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, but next week will also be a four day week for students and teachers after more than 700 faculty members requested off work to protest at the Fund Our Future rally at the State Capitol.

The rally, to be held Monday, January 27th, will see educators from across the Commonwealth descend upon the Capitol to advocate for more state funding for schools.

RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras sent a note out on the school system’s website explaining that he was “proud” of the level of participation and that it would simply be impossible to find enough substitute teachers to cover for those attending the rally:

Dear RPS Family,

I’m reaching out to share an important change in our school calendar: RPS will be CLOSED on Monday, January 27. Please allow me to explain.

On that day, the Virginia Education Association (VEA) is hosting a “Fund Our Future” rally at the State Capitol to advocate for increased school funding. Based on data we collected last week, it appears that nearly 700 (about a third) of our teachers will be taking personal leave to participate in the VEA rally. We are proud that so many of our educators will be turning out to advocate for RPS and all of Virginia’s public schools.

Unfortunately, however, it is simply not possible to secure enough substitutes for this many classrooms. As a result, non-participating teachers would face unreasonable class sizes that would make meaningful instruction nearly impossible and potentially create significant safety concerns.

Given this – and after conferring with the School Board – I have decided to close RPS on Monday, January 27.

I recognize doing so will create an unexpected childcare burden for our working families. On behalf of RPS, I sincerely apologize for this. I also want to acknowledge that some of our families face food insecurity and depend on school meals for their children. In light of this, our nutrition team will be preparing “to-go” bags for students to take home on Friday afternoon.

Please note that our school calendar includes extra time to account for inclement weather and other unforeseen circumstances. As a result, at this time, no additional days will need to be added to the calendar.

Thank you in advance for your understanding of this decision. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at jkamras@rvaschools.net.

With great appreciation,

Jason Kamras

Superintendent

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St. Gertrude School moving to Benedictine campus in Goochland, two to remain independent

The schools were once 400 feet apart in the Museum District and will soon be a mere 600 feet apart when St. Gertrude’s moves to Benedictine’s 50-acre campus in Goochland in 2021.

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St. Gertrude High School in the Museum District, an all-girls Catholic school, will soon join their male counterpart, Benedictine, in Goochland County.

The two schools made the joint announcement on Friday. While the two will remain single-sex and independent, the combined entity will be known as The Benedictine Schools of Richmond.

Full release from the two schools follows:

The future of Richmond Catholic secondary school education just became a lot brighter. Today, after many months of collaborative strategic planning, we are proud to announce:

The Benedictine Schools of Richmond

This newly-formed entity will unify these two pillars of Richmond’s Catholic community — Saint Gertrude High School and Benedictine College Preparatory — on the same campus. Both schools will retain their names and operate distinct, single-sex educational programs. Of equal importance, this formalization places both schools in strong positions for growth and program development.

Beginning in the 2021-22 school year, just in time for its Centennial Celebration, Saint Gertrude will begin relocating to the 50-acre property in Goochland County currently home to Benedictine Prep. The boys’ school will remain in its current facility. For the girls, a new, state-of-the-art academic building is being planned. Together, the schools will share a peaceful, modern, and sprawling campus including the campus’s new, world-class athletic facilities.

Our schools have long been united in our distinct missions and spirit, in our belief in the unique benefit of single-sex education, and in our educational philosophies rooted in the Rule of Saint Benedict. For the better part of a century, our schools even shared a city block. Where the schools were once located 400 feet apart in the Museum District, they’ll soon be just 600 feet apart in Goochland County.

Indeed, this announcement is about much more than a new home for Saint Gertrude. It is about strengthening the foundation of Catholic education for our young men and women, now and well into the future.

As the Sisters and the Monks began to discuss the possibilities of a new, formal partnership and co-location, we considered diligently this opportunity through the lens of our respective values, missions, and visions. Our Orders feel wholeheartedly that such a partnership meets that high bar.

As Benedictine has experienced since its move from downtown (and as Saint Gertrude will experience in the coming years), the Goochland location is ideal not only for reflection and peace, but also for growth and innovation in education. And while single-sex education will always be a cornerstone of our schools, such a partnership will foster an even closer and nurturing community through which we strengthen each other. Proximity will allow the schools to share in their long-standing traditions while maintaining each school’s distinctiveness.

We understand you may have questions about what this exciting announcement means for you and your family. We encourage you to join our Heads of School Sister Cecilia Dwyer, OSB (Saint Gertrude) and Mr. Jesse Grapes (Benedictine) as they welcome our communities for a series of Town Hall meetings.

Current Parents:
Tuesday, January 21, 5:30 p.m. at BCP
Wednesday, January 22, 7:30 a.m. at SGHS

Alumni/Friends:
Wednesday, January 22, 5:30 p.m. at SGHS
Thursday, January 23, 7:30 a.m. at BCP

Prospective Parents:
Thursday, January 23, 5:30 p.m. at SGHS
Friday, January 24, 7:30 a.m. at BCP

Members of either school community may attend whichever meeting best suits their schedule.

On behalf of the Monks and Sisters of our Benedictine Orders, we look forward to beginning this journey with you and with your beloved children.

Sr. Joanna Burley, OSB
Prioress
Benedictine Sisters of Virginia

Fr. Jonathan Licari, OSB
Canonical Administrator
Mother Mary of the Church Abbey

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Moody Middle School seventh-grader captures Henrico Schools’ divisionwide spelling title

Ananya Nanduru topped competitors from across Henrico County Tuesday night to become Henrico Schools’ 2020 Division-wide Spelling Bee champion.

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Ananya Nanduru topped competitors from across Henrico County Tuesday night to become Henrico Schools’ 2020 Division-wide Spelling Bee champion. The Moody Middle School seventh-grader won in Round 8 by correctly spelling “breviary,” a book of daily prayers, hymns, and psalms.

The contest features spelling champions from 46 HCPS elementary schools and 12 middle schools, and determines who will represent Henrico County Public Schools at the regional competition. Pocahontas Middle School sixth-grader Weston Kasberger was runner-up.

Among the words Nanduru spelled to win the title were “schadenfreude,” “tritium” and “kielbasa.”

With Nanduru’s win, Moody retains the spelling title and Henrico Schools’ spelling trophy. Last year’s champion, Vishnoy Vadakkancheri, was also a Moody student. The trophy, topped with a whimsical bee, was made possible by a donation from four-time Henrico spelling champion Tejas Muthusamy. Muthusamy, now a student at Maggie Walker Governor’s School, donated money for the trophy to the Henrico Education Foundation, which had the trophy made.

Nanduru will compete next in the Richmond Times-Dispatch Regional Spelling Bee March 21 at the Library of Virginia. The regional winner will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is held in late May and televised by ESPN.

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