Perl, Pioneering UNC Neuroscientist, Dies At 88

Neuroscience pioneer Dr Edward R. Perl has passed away at age 88.

Perl was the Sarah Graham Kenan Professor Emeritus of cell and molecular physiology at UNC School of Medicine.

Dr. Edward R. Perl

Dr. Edward R. Perl

His groundbreaking work more than three decades ago identified a particular class of nerve cells that respond exclusively to pain. His discovery paved the way for research into pain-relieving drugs that block their function.

Perl was instrumental in the formation of the Society for Neuroscience and served as acting president in its first year of existence from 1969 to 1970.

He also established the Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize, which includes a $10,000 award in recognition of significant achievements in neuroscience. Four past recipients went on to win the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine.

He is survived by his wife, children, and grand daughters as well as many students and colleagues.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to the Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize, through the Medical Foundation of NC, 880 MLK Jr. Blvd, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27514.

Prosecutor: Hearing In UNC Agents Case On Hold

HILLSBOROUGH – This week’s scheduled hearing for five people charged with violating North Carolina’s sports agent law by providing benefits to former Tar Heels football players has been postponed.

Orange County district attorney Jim Woodall said Monday that the hearing originally set for Wednesday is on hold until a later date that hasn’t yet been set.

Prosecutors have provided tens of thousands of investigative records to defense attorneys for review. It’s unclear when the case could reach a trial.

A grand jury indicted the defendants in September for violating the state’s Uniform Athlete Agent Act by providing benefits to former players Marvin Austin, Greg Little and Robert Quinn in 2010. The defendants include a Georgia-based sports agent and a former UNC tutor.

UNC’s Summer Green Named To U.S. U20 World Cup Roster

Story by Dave Lohse

CHICAGO, ILL. – U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team head coach Michelle French has named her 21-woman roster that will represent the American side at the 2014 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup, being held in Edmonton, Montreal, Moncton and Toronto, Canada, from Aug. 5-24.

North Carolina rising junior forward Summer Green (Milford, Mich.) has earned one of the roster spots, continuing a long tradition of Tar Heel players who have competed in the U20 World Cup. Two years ago in Japan, Tar Heels Crystal Dunn, Kealia Ohai and Bryane Heaberlin led the United States to the gold medal.

Green’s current Tar Heel teammate, junior midfielder/defender Katie Bowen, will compete for the New Zealand team at the U20 World Cup and was named the captain of the Football Ferns’ side earlier this week.

All three of the USA’s group games will be broadcast live across the ESPN platforms. The U.S. plays its first two Group B matches at the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, opening its tournament on Aug. 5 against Germany at 5 p.m. local (7 p.m. ET on ESPNU and WatchESPN) before facing Brazil on Aug. 8 at 8 p.m. local (10 p.m. ET on ESPNU and WatchESPN).

The USA will finish group play on Aug. 12 against China PR at Moncton Stadium with a kickoff at 5 p.m. local (4 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and WatchESPN). The curtain-raising clash between the USA, which has won this tournament three times, and Germany, which has it won it twice, will pit the countries that played in the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Final in Tokyo.

“We have a good mixture of leadership, talent and great technical ability on all three lines,” said French. “We have a lot of tactical understanding and creativity based on the way they read the game, and I see a lot of grit and bite in the way we defend. The combination of these factors gives us a very well-rounded team.

French named her squad after the first week of a two-week training camp in Seattle, Washington, which will be the last domestic event for the U.S. team before it leaves for Canada in late July. French put her player pool through a thorough evaluation process over the past year and a half, taking a hard look at almost 80 players in training camps and games.

Cunningham Says UNC Working To ‘Move Forward’

Things just have not gotten easier for North Carolina and athletic director Bubba Cunningham.

The school spent another year dealing with off-field issues, from the eligibility of a top basketball player to a long-running academic scandal and now a reopened NCAA investigation. The Tar Heels also failed to win an Atlantic Coast Conference championship in any sport for the first time.

“We’re wrestling with some of the toughest issues you can wrestle with,” Cunningham said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s taxing on the faculty. It’s taxing on the faculty council. It’s taxing on the coaches, on the students in the classroom. It is something that as an institution, we have to figure out how we can move forward.”

UNC finished 14th in the 2013-14 Directors’ Cup standings of the nation’s top overall sports programs, the first time in six years and the fourth time in the competition’s 21 seasons that it failed to make the top 10. Cunningham pointed to ACC expansion and parity as factors in the title-less season.

“It’s not that the sky is falling,” he said, “but you do need to pay attention and see what we can do to improve performance.”

The highlight was women’s tennis finishing as NCAA runner-up, while men’s tennis reached the final eight, women’s basketball came within a game of the Final Four and field hockey reached the national semifinals. Football — led by Cunningham’s first major hire, Larry Fedora — regrouped from a 1-5 start to win a bowl game.

But much of Cunningham’s third season was spent dealing concerns outside the lines.

The school spent much of 2013 investigating violations by NBA prospect P.J. Hairston before deciding not to seek his reinstatement from the NCAA, ending his college career.

Scrutiny of academics for athletes increased in January when a former UNC learning specialist told CNN that the majority of football and basketball players she studied from 2004-12 read at below-grade levels, though three outside researchers later said the data did not support her findings.

The school also hired former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein to investigate the causes of fraud — first found in 2011 — in the formerly named African and Afro-American (AFAM) department featuring classes with significant athlete enrollments and dating to the 1990s.

Then, in June, former basketball player Rashad McCants from the 2005 NCAA championship team told ESPN that tutors wrote papers for him and coach Roy Williams knew he took some of the AFAM classes in question. Weeks later, the NCAA said it was reopening its probe into academic misconduct because new information was available.

“It certainly has taken longer than I anticipated,” Cunningham said. “In 2011 we all thought we had NCAA issues with agents and amateurism. 2012 is really when the academic challenges arose. In 2013 we had a chancellor leave … so we’ve had a year of transition.

“It has been a long time to see similar issues arise. Now we’re all hopeful that this final report that we’re doing (from Wainstein) … will bring closure to it.”

Cunningham and provost James W. Dean Jr. have also spent the past year leading a review of how UNC handles academics for athletes, from the admissions process to academic support programs and NCAA compliance education. It will last into the fall.

Along the way, UNC has put some facility projects to the side while dealing with everything else.

UNC is looking at updates for an aging Fetzer Field, home to the soccer, lacrosse and outdoor track programs. UNC is also mulling upgrades or even a replacement to the Smith Center, the 21,750-seat home to men’s basketball built in 1986. Both are still in planning stages.

“It’s not always going to be perfect,” Cunningham said. “I think what I have tried to bring to the department is a sense of calm, a sense of consistency that we are moving in a positive direction, that we do have a plan in how we can continue to improve and that we’re working together for a common goal: for these students to have an outstanding experience.”

UNC Surgeons Open Malawian Burn Unit

Two surgeons with the Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals recently returned from a two-week trip to Malawi in southern Africa where they opened a burn center in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Dr. Anthony Charles (Courtesy of UNC News Services)

Dr. Anthony Charles (Courtesy of UNC News Services)

“We go to Malawi not with the intention of essentially creating an American emergency room, we just want to make whatever they have there work, work better, and any new technology that we may bring is just to make life easier for everybody,” says Dr. Anthony Charles, the Director of the Adult ECMO Program and Associate Professor of Surgery with specialties in trauma, critical care, and acute care surgery.

***Listen to the Full Interview with Dr. Charles and Medical Director, Dr. Bruce Cairns***

ECMO is the process of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or heart and lung bypass.

Dr. Charles is a native of Nigeria. He has traveled to Malawi since 2007 and says, although a lot of attention is given to HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, trauma kills more people than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

Dr. Charles and Jaycee Burn Center Medial Director Bruce Cairns—who also serves as the faculty chair at UNC—were recently in Malawi for two weeks. The doctors made the trip to open and dedicate a burn unit and burn operating room in Malawi’s Kamuzu Central Hospital.

“I think one of the most unique things about that hospital in Malawi is that now you have an operating room within a burn unit, which most places—even in the United States—will envy,” Dr. Charles says. “It is our hope, because of the summer-hemisphere winter, that we can get patients in and out of the hospital as quick as possible, they can get their skin grafts done, and we can have this huge, huge turnover and get them back to recovery.”

Video from the Kamuzu Central Hospital

Video courtesy of the Jaycee Burn Center

To describe what a hospital is like in Malawi, Dr. Charles says to imagine you’re in an American hospital in the 1930’s. Malawi is also very densely populated with about 14 million people in nearly 46,000 square miles. That’s roughly equivalent to the size of Ohio with about 2.5 million more people and very few medical professionals.

“In Malawi, there are no more than 20 indigenous Malawian surgeons for a population of 14 million people,” Dr. Charles says. “You can imagine that for those that actually make it to the hospital and actually see a surgeon, they’re the lucky ones.”

Dr. Charles and Dr. Cairns say they both agree that support is needed from the UNC campus and throughout the nation to continue to help improve medical practices in Malawi.

Dr. Bruce Cairns (Courtesy of UNC News Services)

Dr. Bruce Cairns (Courtesy of UNC News Services)

“I think that there are a number of things that we would like to change, but it starts with resources and support,” Dr. Cairns says.

“Part of what we’ve done is, we started a surgery residency program to train Malawians to become surgeons and also support the clinical offices for better training,” Dr. Charles says. “I think doubling up on that effort and increasing the number of people that can provide care to their people is the magic sauce.”

Dr. Cairns says he wants to put the burn center out of business, but right now all 60 beds are full.

Walking through the Jaycee Burn Center, you don’t hear much sympathy being handed out; instead, there are smiles on the faces of the doctors and nurses and words of encouragement spread throughout.Dr. Cairns says that’s important to the healing process.

“When you’re a burn patient, you become a burn survivor for life because of the scarring—not just the physical, but the psychological as well,” Dr. Cairns says. “So, how we support the patient and their family during that time has a huge impact on how that burn will affect them for the rest of their lives.”

Dr. Cairns touts the fact that UNC has what he believes are some of the best occupational therapists and one of the best facilities to handle the delicate nature of the trauma, not to mention some of the top doctors.

The Burn Center has a family waiting room that was made possible by Duke Energy. It also has a playroom that helps in the physical and mental healing process.

UNC Jaycee Burn CenterDr. Cairns says a major contributor to the continued success of the Burn Center is the North Carolina Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.

Energy co-ops are private, independent, and not-for-profit. Dr. Cairns says he’s glad to partner with them because he knows if something were to change in the amount of support the Center receives, either from the state, or the hospital, the co-ops would be in full support.

He says his goal to put the Jaycee Burn Center out of business isn’t there yet.

“We are making progress,” Dr. Cairns says. “We will always continue to work on this, but it’s a constantly-evolving challenge.”

He says, for now, his goal is to educate and to work on preventative care so the beds don’t constantly remain full.

“The most advanced medical technology that we’ve ever developed is a vaccine, so it’s always better to prevent an injury than to treat it,” Dr. Cairns says. “But, we have to educate people about what the dangers are in the home—for example, grease fires—as well as the kinds of activities that might lead to an injury—for example, using gasoline on a fire will result in an explosion.”

“We have other challenges with technologies—microwaves, for examples—people don’t appreciate how hot the liquids can get,” Dr. Cairns says. “But more importantly, as our population ages, people aren’t as quick to react. So, we get a lot of people who are older who are getting burned in the kitchen.”

Fire patches hanging in the Jaycee Burn Center

Fire patches hanging in the Jaycee Burn Center

He says there are always a number of injuries after the Fourth of July celebration from fireworks, including the most recent one.

Dr. Cairns says UNC also gets the largest number of transfers from other hospitals, including Duke and WakeMed.

The Jaycee Burn Center treats patients from almost all 100 North Carolina counties. And Dr. Cairns says he wants to continue to make it easier for patients to receive the same quality care they receive in Chapel Hill elsewhere in the state.

“Ultimately we’re here to serve our patients, our citizens, our constituents,” Dr. Cairns says. “How to do that has been a challenge, because some of the services require a critical mass of people. So, we would partner, probably, with trauma centers as well as the UNC Health Care system facilities/hospitals that are a part of what we do here. Now that the electronic medical record is going to be uniform across the system, we’ll be able to work with those various facilities; hopefully we’ll use telemedicine and other strategies to be able to allow the patients to get the kind of care they need without having to travel so far from home.”

UNC Under Alert After Robbery

UNC Police report that the campus is currently operating under an alert condition. Police are seeking help in identifying suspects in an armed robbery that occurred Friday, July 11, at approximately 11 p.m. in the vicinity of Memorial Hall on campus.

The victims reported to the Department of Public Safety that two armed suspects approached them near Memorial Hall, and demanded their wallets and iPhones. The suspects then shoved the victims to the ground, and ran towards Franklin Street.

The suspects are both described as African-American males, around 25 to 30 years old. One was heavy set, wearing a do-rag, and a dark short sleeve shirt. He stands approximately 6 feet tall and has scruffy facial hair. The other suspect has a thin build, is wearing a dark shirt, and khaki shorts. He stands approximately 6 feet 2 inches tall, and has thick hair, possibly dread locks or braids.

Anyone with information which might aid in the investigation should call 9-1-1 or call CrimeStoppers at 919-942-7515.

WCHL will provide updates as they develop.

McCants ‘Awaiting Big Pay Day’ From UNC, NCAA

Rashad McCants won’t answer whether he’ll speak with UNC or investigators, but he says the University and the NCAA are prepared to pay him more than $300 million.

The former UNC basketball standout appeared on SiriusXM satellite radio this week saying the NCAA is writing him a check for more than $300 million to help build sports education programs across the country. He said UNC is writing him a check for $10 million for exploiting him while he was on the men’s basketball team and for the lack of education he received.

The more McCants speaks, the less his story seems to be told. This is the fourth time he has spoken out nationally since his first interview on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”. In that interview, he said that tutors wrote papers for him and he remained eligible only because of “paper classes” that required no attendance – and that his coaches, including head coach Roy Williams, were fully aware of what was going on. He returned to ESPN June 11 with little new information after Williams was interviewed saying he can’t believe what his former player said was taking place.

McCants’ credibility has been called into question since he went behind the mic in June. In a 2004 interview with WRAL, he compared life as a college athlete to being in jail, which he said was originally his uncle’s thought. McCants said, “Once you get out of jail, you’re free. (I’m) in my sentence, and I’m doing my time.” He said he went to class, did all his work, and went to practice and that being a part of that program kept him from doing some of the things non-athletes were able to do in college like vacationing during Fall Break.

He appeared a week later in a press conference with head coach Roy Williams. McCants explained that he was attempting to show how regimented the program was and that he was misunderstood.

Williams shared how angry he was in that press conference saying he told McCants to leave the next practice as soon as he got there. He said he told him, “there (is) a big difference in playing college basketball and being in jail. Like the game Monopoly, I told him I could just give him a ‘Get out of jail free’ card and he could leave.” Williams said he later watched the full ten-minute interview and better understood what he was trying to say. McCants was allowed to come back to practice, and Williams said he didn’t have any other problems with him.

Former Assistant Attorney General for National Security and Homeland Security Advisor, Kenneth Wainstein is conducting an independent external review of UNC’s academic irregularities. He said he reached out to McCants in May requesting an interview. That request was denied, and since McCants’ appearance on ESPN, Wainstein said he has sent another request hoping he is now willing to speak.

The NCAA announced late last month that it has reopened its 2011 investigation into the University. In a statement, athletic director Bubba Cunningham said, “the NCAA has determined that additional people with information and others who were previously uncooperative might now be willing to speak with the enforcement staff.”

Devon Ramsay To Testify In D.C.

A former UNC football player will testify Wednesday during a U.S. Senate committee hearing which is meant to check on the well-being of college athletes.

The News and Observer reports that Devon Ramsay, a fullback who graduated from UNC in 2012, is schedule to testify, along with a former Florida State football player and Rhodes Scholar, Myron Rolle, NCAA President Mark Emmert, civil rights historian and journalist, Taylor Branch, and Richard Southall—who previously led the College Sports Research Institute at UNC and now works at the University of South Carolina. Southall is also listed on former UNC academic advisor Mary Willingham’s research that led to the most recent chapter of the academic scandal at Carolina.

Ramsay was declared ineligible by the NCAA for the 2010 season after finding he received improper financial benefits from agents and improper help form a tutor. However, further investigation found that Ramsay didn’t receive any financial benefits and he only received help on a draft of a paper in which he was given suggestions on how to improve areas of the work.

He returned to the football field the next season for one game, in which he suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee in the season-opening victory against James Madison. He was given an additional year of eligibility in 2012, but the knee injury was career-ending.

Mary Willingham was in Washington, D.C. last week to speak with members of congress. However, she told WCHL that she did not have any hearings scheduled yet, and she does not appear on any witness lists at this time.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation will start its hearing at 2:30 p.m. For more on the hearing, click here.

UNC Requests Interview With McCants

Updated 2:53 p.m., July 7, 2014

UNC has reached out to Rashad McCants, according to the News and Observer.

The University’s Senior Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and Student-Athlete Development, Vince Ille, confirmed Sunday night that a registered letter was sent to the former UNC basketball standout’s residence on June 6. Senior Associate Athletic Director for Communications Steve Kirschner told WCHL that Ille has since followed up with two text messages. As of Monday afternoon, McCants had not responded.

The letter asks McCants if he will speak with Ille in greater detail about the potential NCAA infractions he says he witnessed while attending UNC.

In an interview that aired June 6, McCants told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that tutors wrote papers for him and he remained eligible only because of “paper classes” that required no attendance – and that his coaches, including head coach Roy Williams, were fully aware of what was going on. He returned to ESPN June 11 with little new information after Williams was interviewed saying he can’t believe what his former player said was taking place.

This request isn’t the first in the investigation of UNC’s academic irregularities. Former Assistant Attorney General for National Security and Homeland Security Advisor, Kenneth Wainstein is conducting an independent external review. He said he reached out to McCants in May requesting an interview. That request was denied, and since McCants’ appearance on ESPN, Wainstein said he has sent another request hoping he is now willing to speak.

The NCAA announced last week that it has reopened its 2011 investigation into the University. In a statement, athletic director Bubba Cunningham said, “the NCAA has determined that additional people with information and others who were previously uncooperative might now be willing to speak with the enforcement staff.”

UNC Student Project Goes “Whole Hog”

(Image via

A UNC student-run organization called “Powering A Nation” has unveiled its newest documentary project: “Whole Hog,” an online multimedia exploration of North Carolina’s complex hog industry.

The hog industry is central to the state’s economy, particularly in eastern North Carolina where the tobacco industry is in decline. But it also comes with pitfalls, ranging from the environmental (health issues raised by the spraying of hog waste onto farms as fertilizer) to the economic (the decreasing power of individual small farmers as the industry grows more and more consolidated into fewer and fewer hands).

Available online at, the “Whole Hog” project consists of “written pieces, video stories and graphic design elements” created by six UNC fellows. “Powering A Nation” has been active for six years, creating projects like this that examine various aspects of the energy issue in America – but editor-in-chief Kelly Creedon says this is the first of their projects with a North Carolina-specific focus.

Kelly Creedon, design editor Grayson Mendenhall, managing editor Jess Clark, and graphics editor Bailey Seitter joined Aaron Keck in WCHL studios to discuss the project, a day after its online launch.

You can experience “Whole Hog” for yourself at – and learn more about “Powering A Nation” at