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CTSI Insider | 2020, Quarter 4

CTSI Insider | 2020, Quarter 4

Introduction & Welcome

Welcome to CTSI Insider, the newsletter of the Clinical & Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin. In this issue you will find news and announcements, including upcoming opportunities and events, and research trainings, as well as an overview of services available to support you. Happy reading!

About CTSI

The CTSI is an innovative infrastructure to support and advance education, collaboration, and research in clinical and translational science.


To create a borderless, complementary and synergistic research environment in southeast Wisconsin to translate discoveries into better health of our citizens while simultaneously providing comprehensive educational and training programs to develop the next generation of Clinical and Translational Researchers.

Mission & Strategic Aims

The successful and rapid translation of fundamental discoveries into better health for our communities requires a clinical and translational science network that is robust, multidisciplinary, and national in scope.

The mission of the CTSI, a unique academic-community partnership between five area academic institutions and three hospitals, is to develop an integrated, shared home for clinical and translational research and research training, hallmarked by a borderless, collaborative, synergistic, and investigator/community/patient-friendly, research environment that is functionally integrated into regional and national CTSA networks.

CTSI & You

CTSI is here to serve you! We offer a variety of resources and services to augment the myriad of research infrastructure options available to research teams across CTSI partner institutions. CTSI offers more than 20 different services and resources all aimed at supporting you and your clinical and translational research. These include recruitment and study support services offered through our Clinical Trials Office and Adult Translational Research Unit, Biomedical Informatics consulting services, Biostatistical consults and mini-grants, research process improvement consults, and research funding available through our Pilot Translational & Clinical Studies program. Visit the CTSI website for more information.

Community Corner: Our Community Engagement Efforts

Discovery Radio

CTSI Discovery Radio is broadcast on WMSE (91.7 FM) the broadcast radio station of the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) and a partner institution of CTSI. The show is simultaneously available as a live stream via the WMSE website, and available via other CTSAs, such as Harvard Catalyst and The Georgia Clinical & Translational Science Alliance. CTSI Discovery Radio is a unique facet of CTSI.CTSI Discovery Radio is a unique facet of CTSI.  Each 30-minute edition informs and educates listeners about translational research relative to current health topics, clinical studies and successful outcomes. The show is produced and hosted by radio veteran Bryan Belmer, whose experience and personality provide an excellent balance of credibility and relatability for the listeners.

The goal of CTSI Discovery Radio is to engage the community in embracing our vision/mission of ‘advancing health through research and discovery’ (i.e. advancing biomedical research and finding new drugs, therapeutics and interventions that are better, faster and more economical than ever).

In response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus, and its impact on our local, state, national and international communities, recent CTSI Discovery Radio episode podcasts have focused on various topics related the pandemic.

Our July podcast (episode #75) focuses on virtual-care, including insights from MCW experts on how the need for virtual-care is rapidly increasing and how it’s impacting patients who are among the most vulnerable for contracting COVID-19.

Our August podcast (episode #76) explores an international registry of sickle cell disease patients who have contracted COVID-19, created by MCW researchers in hopes of providing better outcomes.

Then, our September podcast (episode #77) focuses on global health perspectives during the COVID-19 Coronavirus global pandemic, including insights from experts at MCW and UWM.

The CTSI is also proud to announce that our award-winning CTSI Discovery Radio show recently earned two additional national awards in the 37th Annual Healthcare Advertising Awards program.

CTSI Discovery Radio airs the third Friday of every month at 12pm noon (CST) on 91.7 FM WMSE. The show can also be streamed on the WMSE website. Immediately following its airing, a podcast of the show posts on our CTSI website or wherever you listen to your other favorite podcasts, such as Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio PodcastsSoundCloud, and more.

CTSI Science Café Program


The CTSI Science Café Program is an essential part of CTSI’s Trilateral Mutually Learning Ecosystem (healthcare system, research enterprise, and the community), with the community participating as equal partners from onset and throughout the translational research process. The overall purpose of the Program is to engage community members, clinical and translational scientists, and other stakeholders in an informal setting to participate in bi-directional dialogue of current clinical and translational research efforts and medical issues of interest to the community. In concert with numerous additional CTSI community engagement efforts, the Science Cafés create a “Community Clinical and Translational Research Pathway” that facilitates health and research literacy for community members towards the goal of involvement and participation in clinical and translational research; and furthermore, facilitates and supports investigators research efforts (e.g., grant submission, research participant enrollment, community engagement efforts, etc.). All of our Community Engagement efforts work together to advance the health and well-being of our citizens.

Goals and Objectives of our CTSI Science Café Program
  1. Establish a “Community Clinical and Translational Research Pathway” that is bi-directional
  2. Establish a “Hub” in the community for health and research education
  3. Break down the silos and misperceptions of clinical and translational research (C&TR) among community members
  4. Strengthen Health and Research Literacy in the communities we serve
  5. Transfer knowledge between clinical and translational researchers and community members
  6. Demonstrate the important role C&TR plays in society, and the importance of community involvement, guidance, and participation
  7. Increase the participation of the community in C&TR across the research translational spectrum (T0-T5)
  8. Create opportunities for faculty, staff, students and community members to engage one another on health and research related issues in an environment outside an academic setting.
  9. Inspire the community to be more comfortable interacting with C&TR and medical experts.
  10. Inspire scientific and/or medical experts to be more comfortable discussing research and health issues with the public.

This quarter we have been offering Science Cafes in the faith-based community.

For more information on past and future Science Cafes, please visit the Science Café page.

DateLocationTopicSession Leader(s)
August 26
6:00 PM
True Love Missionary Baptist ChurchThe Importance of Immunization: What They are and Why We Need ThemDr. Joe Barbieri
Dr. Anna Huppler
September 9
12:00 PM
Zion Hill Missionary
Baptist Church
The effects of COVID-19 on the African American Community: Why now, Why Us and What to doDr. Joe Barbieri
Dr. Dessie Levy
September 22
6:30 PM
True Love Missionary Baptist ChurchIntermittent Fasting: Weight Management and Diabetes PreventionDr. Dessie Levy
September 29
6:00 PM
Zion Hill Missionary
Baptist Church
Hypertension and Stroke in African Americans: The Impact of Blood Pressure and StressDr. Michael Widlansky
October 13
6:00 PM
Canaan Missionary
Baptist Church
Alzheimer’s Disease During COVID-19 from the Caretaker’s PerspectiveJennifer McAlister
October 28
6:00 PM
True Love Missionary Baptist ChurchNational Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Testimonials of African American Women and Breast CancerDr. Sandra Underwood
November 17
6:00 PM
Greater Spring Hill Missionary Baptist ChurchColon CancerDr. Timothy Ridolfi

About the CTSI Child Advancement Network (CAN) / Vroom

CTSI established the Child Advancement Network (CAN) as a broad-based, comprehensive, and innovative approach to child health via partnerships, advocacy and collaborations aimed at advancing the wellbeing of children across domains of health.

“Achieving Together What We Cannot Achieve Alone”

The CAN approach includes CTSI’s institutional partners, cross-sector organizations and grass-roots stakeholders focused on children via enabling their families and communities towards optimizing child health.  Partners convene regularly to strategize and subsequently carry out numerous activities.

Learn more about CAN

The CAN shares Vroom as a tool for caregivers to use with their children.  Research shows there is no better time to create a strong foundation for lifelong learning than the first five years of life. It’s during this period that the brain develops most rapidly. And the things that matter most for healthy brain development, like talking and playing, don’t require more time, money, or stuff. That’s why Vroom is here.

Vroom believes all parents want what’s best for their children. Vroom provides science-based tips and tools to inspire families to turn shared, everyday moments into Brain Building Moments®.  For additional information visit:  https://www.vroom.org/

News & Announcements

CTSI Pilot and Translational Studies Program

The CTSI Traditional Pilot Awards are intended to support innovative, multidisciplinary and multi-institutional studies that advance Clinical and Translational Research. This approach has been successful and has catalyzed the formation of many multi and transdisciplinary research teams of scientists.

Support for the 2020 Traditional Pilot Awards comes from Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Research and Education Program (AHW REP) and is supported by grant UL1TR001436 from the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program of the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Congratulations to the 2020 traditional pilot awardees.

Fatigue and neuromuscular function in adults with achilles tendinopathy

Co-PI: Craig Young, MD
Medical College of Wisconsin
Co-PI: Sandra Hunter, PhD
Marquette University

Co-Investigators: Lauren Sara, DPT, Marquette University; Marie Hoeger Bement, MPT, PhD, Marquette University

A pilot study of a randomized sham-control auricular tens unit stimulation to improve symptoms through vagal modulation in pediatric functional gastrointestinal disorders

Chelimsky Gisela G

PI: Gisela Chelimsky, MD
Medical College of Wisconsin

Co-Investigators: Marcellus Meritt, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Thomas Chelimsky, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin; Pippa Simpson, PhD, Medical College of Wisconsin; James Verbsky, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin

A randomized, double-blinded, placebo controlled pilot trial of the feasibility of high definition transcranial direct current stimulation and cognitive training in patients with mild cognitive impairment


PI: Elias Granadillo, MD
Medical College of Wisconsin

Co-Investigators: Kristy Nielson, PhD, Marquette University; Hrissanthi (Chris) Ikonomidou, MD, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Laura Hancock, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Priyanka Shah-Basak, PhD, Medical College of Wisconsin

Assessing function at a cellular scale in patients with inherited retinal degenerations


Co-PI: Thomas Connor, MD
Medical College of Wisconsin

Robert Cooper_Academic Profile

Co-PI: Robert Cooper, PhD
Marquette University

Co-Investigator: Joseph Carroll, PhD, Medical College of Wisconsin

Bioengineered heart tissue in congenital heart disease

Tomita Mitchell Aoy

Co-PI: Aoy Tomita-Mitchell, PhD
Medical College of Wisconsin


Co-PI: Brandon Tefft, PhD
Medical College of Wisconsin

Co-Investigators: John LaDisa, PhD, Marquette University; Lobat Tayebi, PhD, Marquette University; Michael Mitchell, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin

Using hospital records of patients presenting to froedtert hospital to predict risk of opioid use disorder (OUD), fatal and non-fatal opioid overdose, and ed readmission

Stephen Hargarten_Academic Profile

Co-PI: Stephen Hargarten, MD, MPH
Medical College of Wisconsin


Co-PI: Praveen Madiraju, PhD
Marquette University

Co-Investigator: Nicole Fumo, MPH, Medical College of Wisconsin

Missed opportunities to protect children: quality improvement in identification of substance exposures among at-risk pediatric patients

Petska Hillary W

PI: Hillary Petska, MD, MPH
Medical College of Wisconsin

Co-Investigators: Mark Kostic, MD, Zablocki VA; Amy Drendel, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin; David Gummin, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin; Brian Peterson, MD, Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office

Racial differences in dna-methylation profiling of human placentas in pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia


Co-PI: Anna Palatnik, MD
Medical College of Wisconsin

Co-PI: Yi-Wen Huang, PhD

Medical College of Wisconsin

Co-Investigators: Chiang-Ching Huang, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Curt Sigmund, PhD, Medical College of Wisconsin

Hearing patient’s voice: contextual phenotyping of patient narratives and clinical data using ml & nlp

Melek Somai_Academic Profile

Co-PI: Melek Somai, MD, MPH
Medical College of Wisconsin


Co-PI: RJ Nowling, PhD
Milwaukee School of Engineering

Co-Investigators: Bradley Crotty, MD, MPH; Medical College of Wisconsin; Aaron Winn, Medical College

Investigator’s Corner

Integrated Clinical & Research Ensembles: Year in Review

In July 2019, CTSI began a novel program to integrate clinical and research faculty, community stakeholders and health system representatives in highly innovative and efficient teams to get more treatments and interventions more quickly to more patients and our community. Since then, the teams, known as “Team Science-Guided Integrated Clinical & Research Ensembles (ICRE)” have proven themselves to be an effective research mechanism for bringing together these complementary stakeholders and generating new ideas to address unmet medical needs.  COVID-19 brought forth challenges for implementing this project as originally envisioned, however newly identified unmet patient needs presented new opportunities for Ensemble research teams to develop.


The purpose of the Ensemble is to nucleate teams around an unmet medical need and translate research ideas into clinical practice. The Ensemble brings together a broad continuum of stakeholders, and is inclusive of siloed stakeholders, and others that may rarely be brought into plans to address an unmet medical need. Members could include patients, community advocates, community representatives, hospital system representatives, clinicians, basic scientists, population scientists, community health experts.

Unlike traditional research approaches that might gather faculty with similar interests to focus on a project such as a grant proposal, the Ensemble is formed to address an unmet medical need without knowing the exact steps and trajectory of the project (s). (In fact, the impact of COVID-19 provides a striking example of how some Ensembles have already altered course in order to adapt projects to new unmet patient needs and harness new opportunities.)

The immediate goal of the pre-Ensemble is to meet regularly and discuss the collection of questions that might be important in addressing the unmet need, discuss the expertise of each member and ideas for how to complement each other’s expertise in addressing questions, and to create a list of known experts or expertise that will be needed to explore the questions.

The discussions will elicit ideas for “products” that could be a device, process, medication, assay, biomarker, clinical trial, survey tool, questionnaire, extramural grant, scholarly publication, etc. The products are informed by divergent members of the pre-Ensemble.

A unique aspect of the Ensemble platform is the inclusion of CTSI’s partner institutions and their resources.  These institutions include Children’s Wisconsin, Clement Zablocki VA Medical Center, Froedtert Hospital, Marquette University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin.  Many faculty and staff from partner institutions are members of the Ensemble teams. However, participation in the program is not limited to the region and Ensembles also include participants from across the country.  This allows for a borderless, synergistic biomedical research enterprise that is accelerating the translation of research discoveries into new and improved medical treatments.

Ensemble Formation

Between the period of July 2019 and March 2020, 10 Ensembles were formed and met regularly under project management by Mike Anello and David Zimmerman. Each of the 10 Ensembles developed and submitted an Ensemble proposal for review to obtain a $50,000 line of credit. Eight of the Ensembles were approved for funding by the CTSI Review Committee and highlights of three Ensembles are presented later in this article.

ICRE: The Basic Operating Unit of the Translational Engine

Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, CTSI engaged in a COVID-19 Research Initiative in which 32 COVID-19 Ensemble teams were formed and began meeting on April 10th. These Ensemble teams were provided project management support by 17 CTSI “deputized” project managers. The team of deputized project managers is comprised of individuals who also carry out the other functions of CTSI as Program Directors, Program Managers, Project Coordinators, Administrative Assistants, Data Operations Manager, and others. CTSI also made available several supports, including expertise in community engagement, biomedical informatics, clinical trial protocol development, clinical trial execution, and biostatistics.  After several developments that involved teams splitting, merging, or disbanding due to various challenges, 17 teams have emerged and are generating impressive results. Click for descriptions of these teams Highlights of three teams are presented later in this article.

Ensemble Groups

In this newsletter each quarter we will highlighting a couple Ensembles, as well as some of the COVID-19 pre-Ensembles.

Multiple Myeloma Ensemble

Following a period of successful cancer therapy, multiple myeloma can relapse as a drug-refractory aggressive disease that leaves few therapeutic options.  This Ensemble was formed around clinicians, basic scientists, and a patient advocate with the goal of identifying tissue samples for research, as well as a cohort of patients to study therapeutic lifestyle interventions.

Throughout the past year this Ensemble has recruited a multiple myeloma patient spouse to provide perspective for outlined goals.  The team has also screened potential patients’ samples and is in the process of obtaining the appropriate MGUS and myeloma plasma cell tissues from the tissue bank for storage in a multiple myeloma biorepository.  The group has identified 258 samples from for MCW tissue bank for Dr. Janz lab to develop mouse-model experiments.

The Ensemble has also begun to identify a number of multiple myeloma patients for a cohort study, completing 19 interviews with a goal of 30.

Fecal Incontinence Ensemble

The Fecal Incontinence Ensemble discovered through a series of meetings that fecal incontinence prevalence occurs in half of all nursing home residents and no consensus exists for standard characterization/measurement of the problem, causing an inability to accurately compare prior studies.

Since being funded, the group has initiated their project plan to create a bank for patient data. They wanted to first find out how many patients were appropriate for the Ensemble project. Using four fecal incontinence diagnostic codes the, Ensemble identified 3,600 patients at Froedtert over the past 5 years.

The Ensemble developed a REDCap registry for surveys pertaining to fecal incontinence to be implemented across 4 clinics (OBGYN, Gastroenterology, Urology, Physical Therapy) to accomplish standardization of patient reports. Their IRB protocol was approved for the registry of survey and questionnaires including intake, visit, defecography, anal manometry, anal sphincter imaging (Ultrasound or MRI), endoscopy, Fecal Incontinence Quality of Life Scale,  Pelvic Floor Distress Inventory (Short form 20), and Vaizey Score (determines fecal urgency). They are now ready for implementing this into the clinics to ensure adequate data collection.

Shield Milwaukee Against Antibiotic Resistance (SMAART) Ensemble

Pictured from left: Alex Kallen, MD, MPH (CDC); Ashlie Dowdell, (DPH); Silvia Munoz-Price, MD, PhD (MCW); Nimalie Stone, MD (CDC); Michael Lin, MD, MPH (Rush University); Robert Weinstein, MD (Rush University)

This Ensemble is focused on the threat to patients from an extremely drug resistant (XDR) strain that has been able to quickly spread due to the lack of an integrated response among facilities throughout the healthcare continuum. There has been a trend of northern migration of patients, and the XDR strains they carry, occurring in Wisconsin. Evidence and previous experiences have shown that the spread of XDR organisms within hospitals can occur in a matter of months.

The SMAART Ensemble held a Post-Acute Care Emerging Multidrug-Resistant Organisms (MDRO) Education Symposium on Jan. 21st, 2020, co-sponsored by CTSI consisting of Ensemble members presenting on the antibiotic resistant threat in Milwaukee, impact on patients, responses by Chicago to similar epidemic, and next steps for Wisconsin to take to prevent the spread.

Attendance of over 70 health care leaders from throughout Wisconsin comprising of hospitals, long-term acute care, public health departments, and nursing homes.  Assembly of traditionally siloed organizations to coordinate a centralized approach towards preventing the spread of antibiotic resistant organisms.

The symposium helped educate the region’s providers for the Ensemble’s next project; a Point Prevalence Surveillance (PPS) at Milwaukee regional acute/post-acute care facilities. The team has scheduled 31 ICUs at 20 facilities to be screened totaling 562 beds. The first PPS took place on January 13, 2020 and the last is scheduled for March 30, 2020. To date they have received the whole genome sequencing results of 59 CRAB strains collected in three facilities of Southeast Wisconsin. These included environmental and human samples.

COVID-19 pre-Ensembles
Percutaneous Right Ventricular Assist Device

This pre-Ensemble determined that in comparison with conventional approaches to the management of severe COVID-19 acute respiratory distress syndrome, early introduction of percutaneous right ventricular assist device/extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support (see graphic) resulted in elimination of secondary end organ damage and lower in the hospital mortality and 30-day mortality.

A retrospective cohort study was conducted from March through June 2020, highlighting the team’s institutional experience with the treatment of 39 patients with COVID-19-associated respiratory failure. This study documented their approach to early right ventricular assist device support with venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation in patients with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome due to COVID-19. Primary endpoints were in the hospital mortality, and 30-day mortality.  Secondary endpoints were acute renal failure, duration of mechanical ventilation, and length of stay.  This study was the collaborative work of 14 team members spanning 8 departments and 2 institutions.

The study highlights new and innovative methods on an evolving treatment for the most severe forms of respiratory failure due to COVID-19, which is being encountered at an ever-growing rate and for which traditional treatment options thus far have shown to be minimally effective at improving outcomes.

The BRaVe Clinic: Building Resilience Virtually

This pre-Ensemble led by Dr. Kristen Kroll identified unmet medical needs throughout the community brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic by the shared experiences of the diverse multi-instructional and multi-disciplinary group.  The group, comprised of psychologists, pharmacists, social workers, nurses, and physicians, discovered that healthcare workers were being exposed to traumatic and non-traumatic stressors (fear for self & loved ones, learned helplessness) resulting from COVID-19.  They also found that healthcare workers in previous and current pandemics also experienced psychological effects (anxiety, depression, traumatic stress). With sustained high levels of stress, cognitive functioning is impaired (medical errors).

This pre-Ensemble decided to create a mental health clinic for healthcare workers with the goal of primary and secondary prevention (i.e. prevent psychological sequelae before trauma; intervention after trauma has occurred).  The idea for the BRaVe Clinic was designed to be entirely virtual to provide training for doctoral students in providing evidence-based care via tele-behavioral health (See brochure excerpt below).  This allows for a safe method to train graduate students and provide a rare opportunity for training in telehealth.

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation awarded this pre-Ensemble $25,000 for a six-month project with the scope of broadening to serve not only healthcare workers, but also other individuals in the community at heightened risk, history of depression, or currently experiencing interpersonal violence.  Patients must be from the following counties: Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha.

Drug Re-Purposing: A Phase II Randomized Controlled Trial of Salmeterol vs. Placebo for Inpatients with COVID 19 (The Salmeterol Trial)

This pre-Ensemble co-led by Dr. Jonathan Marchant and Dr. Tom Aufderheide designed a Phase II, multicenter, prospective, double blind, placebo controlled interventional, safety and efficacy study.  The purpose of this study is to determine the impact of SEREVENT Inhalation Aerosol salmeterol 21 mcg) 2 inhalations (INH) BID X 30 days or until death or hospital discharge versus placebo on the cumulative incidence of recovery, defined as the number of days from randomization until hospital discharge, in adults admitted to the hospital ward or ICU for treatment of COVID 19 symptoms. Their hypothesis is that SEREVENT Inhalation Aerosol will significantly reduce the number of days from randomization until hospital discharge compared with placebo.

This pre-Ensemble is capitalizing on NCATS’ Trial Innovation Network (TIN) resources and is finalizing their study design, statistics and budget with Duke’s Data Coordinating and Clinical Coordinating Centers.  The team is utilizing expertise of the CTO regulatory specialist to secure a FDA waiver of the investigational new drug (IND) requirement. and are looking into potential sources of grant funding from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), NHLBI and NCATS.

Progress Update Symposium for COVID-19 Research Initiative

On July 20th, the COVID-19 Research Initiative held its first gathering to present results after only three months of team collaboration.  The accomplishments were impressive. Twenty-one active teams had already logged a total of 198 meetings, with an average of 9 meetings per team, involving 172 investigators from the Medical College of Wisconsin, Froedtert Hospital, Children’s Wisconsin, Versiti, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marquette University, and Milwaukee School of Engineering—A truly multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional collaboration. At this stage, the initiative was responsible for submitting 13 foundation, federal, and industry grants proposals totaling $19,280,577, with two awards for $25,000 (Greater Milwaukee Foundation) and $199,909 (National Science Foundation). In addition, four human subject research protocols and 1 institutional biosafety protocol had been approved, and patients were already being impacted through clinical interventions resulting from the nascent initiative.

For more information on this initiative, please visit this page, or contact Mike Anello 414-704-0209 (manello@mcw.edu).

More Information
If you are interested in either learning more about the CTSI Integrated Clinical & Research Ensembles, joining an existing Ensemble, or starting your own team, please contact Mike Anello (manello@mcw.edu) and David Zimmerman (dzimmerman@mcw.edu).  There are no exclusions as to who can participate—research faculty, clinicians, students & trainees, community members, patients, and hospital administration are all encouraged to contact CTSI about participation in these novel research teams.

CTSI Partners Working Together for You

Sam Nemanich, PhD, MSCI

The CTSI Child Advancement Network (CAN) would like to welcome a new collaborating partner, Dr. Sam Nemanich from Marquette University, College of Health Sciences!

An Introduction to Youth & Family Programs at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Dianne Choie, Youth & Family Programs Coordinator

At the Milwaukee Art Museum, we are working on ways to help everyone in our community—of all ages!—see their local art museum as a welcoming, comfortable place to learn and play.  We’ve partnered with Vroom®, which is dedicated to promoting learning and facilitating cognitive growth in the first five years of children’s lives. They have developed Vroom Tips, activities based on brain science that adults can engage in with children to age 5 at anytime, anywhere. Using their model of encouraging adults and young children to actively explore the world together, we developed Museum Moments, activities that guide adults in looking at art with young children at the Milwaukee Art Museum (or any art museum!) through games and conversation. The goal is to remove the feeling that adults need to carefully study the label text or be “art experts” to teach a child about art. Instead, they are empowered to use what they see and hear to continue the learning and play they’re already doing at home. Anyone can find colors, imitate facial expressions, or enjoy making different sounds, and Museum Moments encourages families to do those things using artwork in the galleries. Our hope is that families will find enjoyment and connection in art museums and gain a sense of ownership.

This summer we expanded our Museum Moments cards so that they include six different activities for each age from 0 to 5. Before the state’s Safer at Home order began, we offered Museum Moments cards to visitors to borrow for free during their time in the Museum. We have now posted, as a PDF, the updated cards (available in English now and soon Spanish as well) on our website for visitors to print or view on their smartphones. Once it is safe to distribute materials in the Museum, we plan to offer both English and Spanish language card sets to visitors with young children to take home and use again and again when they’re looking at art, whether at MAM or elsewhere.

The Milwaukee Art Museum offers multiple programs geared to young children and their families in addition to Museum Moments:

  • While our Youth & Family programming is currently all online, the museum is open Thursday–Sunday from 9:30 to 5:00, and kids 12 and under are always free thanks to Kohl’s. Info on reserving tickets and our safety protocols can be found here.
  • Play Date with Art, a monthly program for children ages 0-5 and their caretakers. This year, the program has moved online and is now a half hour session where children look at art, watch musical performances, and learn how to make art projects connected to a different theme every month. Look out for the archive of Play Date recordings on our YouTube channel!
  • Story Time, a monthly program where children listen to a picture book read aloud, then create artwork inspired by the story. Story Time has also moved online with readings in different galleries in the museum and beautiful shots of artwork in our collection that relate to each month’s story.
  • Kohl’s Art Generation Studio at Home: Every other week, we post instructions for creating art projects at home on MAM’s blog. Learn about artwork in the collection, and then make your own masterpiece using techniques and materials inspired by the art. Adults can help children with their projects (and we won’t tell anyone if adults make them on their own!)
  • Kohl’s Family Sundays: Four times a year, the Youth & Family Programs department assembles artists, performers, art projects, and tours of artwork to celebrate the big themes of the year. Tune in to watch videos where you can hear music, see how artists work, learn to make your own art projects at home, and more!

Milwaukee with Kids

The Child Advancement Network (CAN) is a partner and fall sponsor of MKEwithKids.com, whose focus is connecting Milwaukee area parents and caregivers with interactive, safe, kid-friendly businesses, activities and events.  Please see the 2020 Fall Fun Guide at this link:

2020 Fall Fun Guide and recent blog posts at these links:

NIH Funding Acknowledgment: Important Reminder – Please acknowledge the NIH when publishing papers, patents, projects, and presentations resulting from the use of CTSI resources by including the NIH Funding Acknowledgement.


Children's Hospital of WisconsinMarquette UniversityMSOEUWMVersitiVA Medical Center