UC Merced

New Events Bring New Energy to Homecoming 2018

Students, staff, faculty, alumni and the community are welcome to UC Merced’s annual Homecoming celebration, which will include a downtown block party for the first time.

UC Merced is partnering with the Merced Main Street Association to host the block party, which runs from 6-9 p.m. Friday at the Downtown Campus Center. The event will feature a DJ, booths with free food and screenings of the movie Ant-Man and the Wasp.

“Since it opened at the beginning of the year, the DCC has become an integral part of the university’s mission to be connected to the community,” Vice Chancellor Ed Klotzbier said. “This presents an opportunity to show its influence in making that happen.”

Saturday’s festivities begin at 10 a.m. with a Bobcat Breakfast in UC Merced’s Pavilion dining center, which opened in August as part of the first phase of the Merced 2020 Project.

Campus tours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. will allow attendees to explore the new residential buildings that opened in August as well as provide a look at the construction of the final two phases of the Merced 2020 Project.

Carol Tomlinson-Keasey Quad will be home to the Community Showcase from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nine groups are set to perform, and there will be tables for community organizations and a chance to speak with UC Merced members about the university.

The women’s and men’s soccer teams will host games at the new Bobcat Field at 1 and 3 p.m. Both teams play the University of Antelope Valley. Tickets are $1.

From 2-4 p.m., Rufus’ Tailgate provides an opportunity to cheer for the teams while enjoying food and other festivities near Bobcat Field, which opened a year ahead of schedule as part of the Merced 2020 Project.

The festivities will be capped off by the Bobcat Boardwalk from 6-8 p.m. A full lineup of casino games, cornhole, food and music will take place along Little Lake.

Health Communication Researcher Working to Improve Internet-based Medical Information

If you’re an American with Internet access, you’ve probably done it. You get a headache, a sniffle or a mystery bruise, and instead of seeing your doctor, you consult “Dr. Google.”

According to some studies, more than 80 percent of Americans have used the Internet to “self-diagnose” health issues. UC Merced public health communication Professor Susana Ramirez’s new partnership with an eHealth startup aims to help people get quality information and find out what they do with it once they have it.

“Sometimes the answers people get from websites are like newspaper horoscopes,” Ramirez said. “You can’t really say that there’s anything wrong with the answer, but it’s so generic as to be useless for any individual situation. So you end up with people convinced they have some rare cancer, and that creates undue anxiety.

“Another problem with simply ‘Googling’ symptoms is that search engines refer people to sites of varying quality, and there is a lot of junk information out there.”

That’s where BuoyHealth.com, an “artificial-intelligence health assistant,” comes in. The tool synthesizes 22,000 pieces of clinical literature, data and studies that have been encoded in its algorithm, along with more than 35,000 questions medical professionals would ask a patient in a live setting, to guide users through a virtual medical interview.

Users get three possible diagnoses, along with recommendations for levels of care appropriate for each.

The program was developed by Harvard University Medical School graduates and launched in 2017. Buoy now has more than 100,000 users a day and has invested in Ramirez’s lab with a $130,000 grant to study how effective the service is.

“I’m excited about this project,” Ramirez said. “There are a lot of companies trying to figure out how to use technology to improve health, but sometimes in the rush to use the sexiest new technologies, the ultimate goal gets lost. Buoy is unique in that it is leveraging powerful machine learning techniques to analyze medical ‘big data’ in the service of better health. We just have to see how people respond.”

UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the campus’s Public Relations team. To contact the team, email PR@ucmerced.edu.