Jump to content
Placeholder image for header
School of Medicine discoveries


Medical Society of Virginia honors Robin Foster and Gene Peterson for service

The Medical Society of Virginia Foundation recently recognized two medical school faculty with Salute to Service Awards, which are given to Virginia physicians and medical students for their selfless services to others, impact to the health of the population served and commitment to health care excellence.

Robin L. Foster, M.D., won the service to the uninsured and underserved award and Gene Peterson, M.D., M.H.A., Ph.D., posthumously won the service for advancing patient safety and quality improvement award at the awards ceremony, which took place at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center in Roanoke, VA on Oct. 15.

Robin L. Foster, M.D., Robin L. Foster, M.D., was honored by the MSV for her service to the uninsured and underserved.

Robin L. Foster, M.D., Division Chairman of Pediatric Emergency Services, Director of the Child Protection Team, Associate Chairman of Emergency Medicine, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics

Dr. Foster’s award acknowledges her commitment and impact on the profession and the health of the population she serves. She was honored for her work in forming Richmond’s first Child Advocacy Center in partnership with Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) of Greater Richmond. The Child Advocacy Center coordinates activities across agencies to improve training for professionals in positions to defend and protect children in legal and social service interventions. Dr. Foster is also a founding member of Bridging the Gap, which uses adolescent hospital visits as a starting point for increased education, communication and engagement for violence prevention. Along with this work, she is an active leader of Reach Out and Read as well as Richmond Midnight Basketball League—both of which aim to help children and adolescents.

“Dr. Foster has dedicated her career to the prevention of child abuse and neglect, violence prevention and improved advocacy policy on behalf of the underserved population of at-risk children and adolescents and their families,” said nominator Jerome F. Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D. “She has played a key role in multiple significant projects that have positively impacted the lives of underserved and vulnerable children and adolescents in our community. From clinical care, to counseling, to making the most of any contact with the medical center, to changes in policy and law, she has led an unmatched spectrum of programs contributing to improved family life and child and adolescent health in vulnerable populations.”

Dr. Foster is a 1989 graduate of the VCU School of Medicine, which is where she returned as a faculty member in Emergency Medicine in 1996. She currently serves there as the Division Chair of Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Associate Professor in Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics. She is the co-founder and medical director of the Child Protection Team, which evaluates over 1,000 alleged victims of abuse and neglect per year.

Gene N. Peterson, M.D., Ph.D.Gene Peterson, M.D., M.H.A., Ph.D., was honored posthumously by the MSV for advancing patient safety and quality improvement

Gene Peterson, M.D., M.H.A., Ph.D. (awarded posthumously), Former Chief Safety Officer and Associate Dean for Medical Education

The Salute to Service Award for advancing patient safety and quality improvement acknowledges Dr. Peterson’s accomplishments as the first Chief Safety Officer at VCU, in a role that was unique within the country. Dr. Peterson was the first incumbent to receive the appointment to Professorship for Safety, Quality and Service in Resident Education at Virginia Commonwealth University. He set the foundation for resident and physician training with quality and safety initiatives at VCU by improving the safety of clinician training and leading the development of models that still serve VCU today. During the Ebola crisis in West Africa, Dr. Peterson immediately rose to the challenge to assist with the Unique Pathogens Unit.

“Because of Dr. Peterson’s vision and success in integrating resident and physician training with the quality and safety initiatives of the VCU Medical Center, his development of models of care delivery will sever patients and learners for years to come,” said nominator Abraham Segres, Vice President of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA). “Dr. Peterson left an indelible mark on all of his colleagues as well as the patients and communities served by VCU. He was truly a visionary leader, and his work integrating resident physician training with the quality and safety initiatives of the VCU/MCV Hospital Clinics has been the foundation for the future of VCU’s educational programs.”

During his time at VCU, Dr. Peterson was an active participant of several initiatives including the technical advisory panel for TeamSTEPPS, a program developed by the U.S. Department of Defense and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to improve patient safety as well as communication and teamwork skills among health care professionals. He also collaborated on the World Health Organization’s surgical safety checklist for 10 years. He showed a deep commitment to patient safety and encouraged all VCU employees to speak up if they saw something wrong or sensed a potential problem. He wanted to standardize safety measures during patient hand-offs between shifts and worked closely with the University of Virginia Patient Safety team to provide high quality and safe care.

Dr. Peterson died on Nov. 20, 2015. MSVF is honoring him with this award posthumously for his lifelong commitment to advancing the practice of medicine and to improving patient safety.

Announcement courtesy of the MSV Foundation, the philanthropic organization affiliated with the Medical Society of Virginia. MSVF develops sustainable programs and initiatives that equip the physician community to improve the health of Virginians. Building upon physicians’ deep, personal commitment to patient care, MSVF initiatives offer them the opportunity to lead and participate in programs that have direct impact on health care quality and access in Virginia.


Class of 74’s Tom Kerkering honored by the Medical Society of Virginia

The Medical Society of Virginia Foundation recently recognized Thomas M. Kerkering, M.D., FACP, FIDSA, with a Salute to Service Award, which is given out to Virginia physicians and medical students for their selfless services to others, impact to the health of the population served and commitment to health care excellence. Kerkering, a Carilion Clinic physician in Roanoke, was honored for his service to the international community in an awards ceremony that took place at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center in Roanoke, Virginia, on Oct. 15.

Thomas M. Kerkering, M'74The Class of 1974’s Thomas M. Kerkering, M.D., FACP, FIDSA

Thomas Kerkering, M.D., FACP, FIDSA, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Carilion Clinic

Kerkering’s award acknowledges his long-term service and commitment to caring for patients in the international community. He has had a career spanning more than 37 years where he has been able to exemplify his leadership and his dedication to the international community. While he has been with the Infectious Diseases Division at Carilion Clinic, his leadership and organizational skills were crucial during the outbreak of fungal meningitis in Southwest Virginia as well as during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. During the outbreak, the World Health Organization reached out to Kerkering for his help and he traveled to Sierra Leone to educate and train personnel on how to treat infected patients, sharing his knowledge on proper infection control measures to contain Ebola.

“The span and scope of Dr. Kerkering’s international activities are truly amazing,” said Paul Skolnik, M.D., who nominated him for this award. “Dr. Kerkering has taken the lessons learned internationally to inform better care for the residents of Virginia and other places in the United States, and also taught trainees who will follow in his footsteps to carry on the best that America has to offer in the international arena; in this manner, he has added to the world’s health care in remarkable ways.”

Since 1979, Kerkering has been traveling around the world to continue his global health work, helping patients in Cambodia, Angola, Ethiopia, the Middle East, Russia, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and many other countries.

Kerkering is a professor of medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, adjunct professor at Virginia Tech University Public Health Program, section chief at the Carilion Clinic of Infectious Diseases and medical director at the Carilion Clinic Infection Control. He has a master’s degree in public health and is regularly sought out internationally for his instruction on infectious diseases issues important for public health.

Hear Kerkering describe what he’s seen over his 37 year career.

Announcement courtesy of the MSV Foundation, the philanthropic organization affiliated with the Medical Society of Virginia. MSVF develops sustainable programs and initiatives that equip the physician community to improve the health of Virginians. Building upon physicians’ deep, personal commitment to patient care, MSVF initiatives offer them the opportunity to lead and participate in programs that have direct impact on health care quality and access in Virginia.


Seven dozen student and physicians on hand for 2016 Cheese & Chat

The lobby of the McGlothlin Medical Education Center was buzzing on a Friday evening in October. Fifty-four M1 and M2 students had come out to meet seasoned physicians in 2016’s Cheese & Chat.

 scroll below for pictures from 2016 Cheese & Chat scroll below for pictures from 2016 Cheese & Chat

A speed networking styled event, the format gave groups of two to four students the chance to speak with up to 30 physicians from a variety of specialties.

“The students enjoyed learning about new specialties that they had previously known very little about,” said the Class of 2019’s Amy Hazzard, vice president of WIMSO.

“It was great to hear from physicians who are passionate about their work and positive about what our careers hold for us in the future. A major takeaway from the event for students was to find a specialty that they are passionate about, no matter how long it may take to get there.”

Physician members from the Richmond Academy of Medicine as well as from VCU Health also shared insights on balancing professional and personal responsibilities.

“I believe students are now more excited about the M3 and M4 clinical years of medical school where we will have the opportunity to learn even more about specialties and clinical medicine in general,” said Hazzard.

Held on Oct. 14 the event was organized by the Women in Medicine Student Organization along with the Medical Student Government and the Academy of Women Surgeons.

Click the images below for expanded views.

Story by Erin Lucero; photography by Kevin Schindler.


Lifesaver: Second-year student, Cece Elam, honored for heroic actions

The Class of 2019’s Cecelia “Cece” Elam was relaxing poolside with family and friends when she heard the scream for help. Without hesitating, she jumped to her feet to save a little boy’s life.

“I think people looked to me because I’m a medical student,” Elam said. “But up until that moment, I didn’t know if I had what it took to actually save a life. Now I know I can.”

The Class of 2019’s Cecelia “Cece” Elam The Class of 2019’s Cecelia “Cece” Elam and her sister, Leah, with Coleman Ross and his family.

A second-year student at the VCU School of Medicine, Elam was visiting her sister, Leah, in Centerville, Utah, in July when the two decided to spend the day at the community pool. Little did they know that as they lounged, 3-year-old Coleman Ross had wandered away from his family. In a matter of moments, his lifeless body lay at the bottom of the pool.

As bystanders pulled him out, Elam heard her sister call to her. Together, the two began performing CPR. Leah gave two quick breaths while Cece started chest compressions.

“It didn’t look good,” Elam said. “His face was blue and his eyes were rolled back. I was so scared.”

After two more attempts, Coleman began vomiting. An officer who had arrived at the scene helped clear his airway. Finally, the child let out a loud cry.

“It was the most beautiful sound,” Elam said. “It was very emotional. He’s the same age as two of my nephews, so I felt a lot of determination, compassion and love.”

After a brief hospital stay, Coleman returned home healthy. Doctors estimate he was without oxygen from three to nine minutes.

“It’s unbelievable that there were no complications,” Elam said. “It’s pretty unexplainable.”

In recognition of their lifesaving actions, Elam and her sister received the Citizen Commendation Medal from the Utah Department of Public Safety on Oct. 5, 2016. The medal honors individuals exhibiting unusual courage in protecting or saving human life.

“This is the highest civilian award we give,” said Sgt. Todd Royce of the Utah Department of Public Safety. “It is obviously not given out lightly. Those two sisters saved that little boy’s life, no question about it.”

Elam was both surprised and humbled when she learned she would be receiving the award.

“I never expected it,” she said. “I just did what anyone in that situation would have done.”

Coleman’s mother, Annie Ross, was visiting family in Eastern Europe on the day of the accident. When she returned, she couldn’t wait to meet the Elam sisters.

“She gave us these heart necklaces to remind us that we kept her son’s heart beating,” Elam said. “When we met, we just hugged. She started crying and I started crying.”

Then Elam met little Coleman.

“I had an image in my mind of a blue-faced boy,” Elam said. “I wanted to see him well. I wanted to see a laughing, happy boy. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.”

The two families will stay in touch through social media and telephone calls.

“I want to watch him grow up,” Elam said. “I feel such a connection to this family.”

Elam, who grew up in Idaho, holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Brigham Young University-Idaho. She worked in research and as a certified nursing assistant – where she learned first aid and CPR – for a few years before entering medical school. Her husband is a dental student on VCU’s MCV Campus.

“I always knew I wanted to be a doctor,” said Elam, the youngest of nine children. “It’s in the family.”

Her mother is a registered nurse and her brother an internist. She also has siblings working in speech language pathology, health care administration and occupational therapy.

“I don’t know what my specialty will be, but after this experience I’m thinking pediatrics,” Elam said. “I know I want to help people. I know I want to ease their pain.”

By Janet Showalter


The lure of the track

The Class of 95’s John M. “J.” Salmon IVThe Class of 95’s John M. “J.” Salmon IV says a love of cars drive him and his dad into racing. His father, John M. Salmon III, DDS, is a 1965 graduate of the dental school.

Years ago, John M. “J.” Salmon IV, M’95, and his father John Salmon III, DDS’65, always talked about building a car together. It seemed a natural thing for a father known as “the fix everything guy” and his young son to set their sights on, but they never got around to it when J. was little.

Today, after finally building not one, but two cars with his father, J. Salmon has moved into the driver’s seat. Each year, he races sports cars at the Petit Le Mans in Braselton, Georgia, though he’s quick to point out that he’s not a professional. His job is to warm up the crowd, so to speak.

“It’s like going to see the Blue Angels at the air show in Virginia Beach,” J. Salmon says. “They’ll be lots of airplanes and activities before they appear. That’s what I do as part of the support race team at the Petit Le Mans. It gives people something to watch and serves as a stepping stone for young drivers.”

The Petit Le Mans is an annual sports car endurance race. Now in its 19th year, the event covers 1,000 miles or 10 hours of racing, whichever comes first, and features 41 entries across four classes of the International Motor Sports Association WeatherTech Championship competition.

Salmon’s event, the Mazda Prototype Lites series, gives him the opportunity to drive at speeds topping 140 mph in a world-class environment where he’s happy to finish within one second of the pack.

“I’m very happy if I’m not dead last,” he laughs. 2016 marks his third year of support driving at the Petit Le Mans.

The Class of 95’s John M. “J.” Salmon IV“Racing is so fast. It’s a blend of science and art. A lot of physicians are drawn to that.”

How it all started
About an hour from the Salmons’ homes in Lynchburg, Virginia, is one of the country’s top six road courses, the Virginia International Raceway. So it’s not surprising that their love of cars drove them into racing.

“It just sort of steamrolled,” J. Salmon says. “It took Dad and me about three or four years to finish our first car and while we were doing that, we’d spend time at the track. We’d go to the track like others went golfing. Most people don’t have a facility as nice as VIR so close to them. That helped contribute to my delinquency!”

A VIR racer himself, the elder Salmon tries to keep his speed these days under 125 mph. With a recent knee replacement surgery under his belt, he’s careful not to overdo. A trip back to the track during recuperation helped him gauge his abilities.

“The knee is in good shape, but I wanted to see how it performed at the track,” he says. “The only real pressure I have to use is on the brakes, that’s why I wanted to go see how it worked.”

Problem solving
Working with engines, suspensions and timing belts is a lot like problem solving in the health care field, explains J. Salmon who practices as a pathologist.

“Many times Dad and I would be working on a car trying to make it faster. We’d upgrade things if necessary. And yes, we blew up an engine. But we figured it out. Problem solving stems from medicine. In school, you’d see a problem and decide how to approach it. You come up with your own solutions. Racing is really immersive. It’s complex, challenging and a blend of science and art. A lot of physicians are drawn to that.”

But as drawn as he is to racing at the Petit Le Mans, J. Salmon is equally happy racing here in Virginia.

“I enjoy it more at the local track with friends,” he says. “I get to go home at night and be with my family.”

By Nan Johnson


Door Opens Wide for Biostatistician

You might not picture a biostatistician on the front lines of saving lives. But Maureen McBride, PhD’95 (BIOS), has parlayed her training into a high-powered career at UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing, the nation’s transplant network.

Maureen McBride, PhD’95 (BIOS)

Maureen McBride, PhD’95 (BIOS), says she’s “privileged to be in a position where I feel like the work I do helps patients every single day.”

As chief contract operations officer, McBride is part of a six-person C-suite at UNOS, a private nonprofit organization that operates the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network under contract with the federal government. They are tasked with operating the 24-hour computerized organ sharing system that matches donated organs to patients registered on the national organ transplant waiting list. The organization also seeks to increase understanding of the transplant system through education and improve transplant success rates through research and policy. It’s just a stone’s throw from VCU’s MCV Campus.

Her job is an important – and busy – one. “One of my primary responsibilities is to work with our partners in the transplant community and our funders at HRSA [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration],” says McBride. “We make sure everybody’s on the same page with the different projects we have going on.” In addition to contract operations, she oversees three departments at UNOS: member quality, policy and the 24/7 organ placement division.

As she was finishing her doctorate, McBride heard about the opportunity for a senior biostatistician at UNOS. Its mission lured her away from thoughts of joining the pharmaceutical industry, a career path that interested many classmates. “It was a very different kind of opportunity. I knew I’d enjoy the direct connection with people in the field. I knew I’d have opportunity to work with people on national policy-making committees, to give presentations, write manuscripts and do collaborative research.”

In 2006, McBride became director of research, providing expertise in research, analysis and performance measurement conducted by UNOS staff. In 2014, she was promoted to her current position.

She’s pleased to help advance organ availability and transplantation through education, technology and policy development.

“I started as biostatistician involved in research and data, but now my scope has broadened to include policy development, performance improvement and compliance. Our organization is growing, medicine is evolving, and with a foundational education, you can go many different directions,” she says.
“The depth of her knowledge about how UNOS and transplantation work is amazing,” says Brian Shepard, CEO of UNOS. “Whenever I’m trying to understand something that nobody else seems to understand, I go to Maureen.”

It’s a time of growth at UNOS. The field of transplantation is expanding rapidly, with transplants in the U.S. up 6 percent last year and trending toward a 10 percent uptick this year. “I feel privileged to be in a position where I feel like the work I do helps patients every single day,” McBride notes.

McBride appreciates the long-standing relationship between VCU and UNOS. Noted transplant surgeons H.M. Lee, M.D., and David Hume, M.D., helped push the passing of the National Organ Transplant Act that founded the organization now known as UNOS. VCU is also a source of interns and hires for UNOS.

McBride’s top priority remains focusing on the lifesaving mission of UNOS. “There are currently 120,000 people on the waiting list,” she says. “But we’re only going to do about 30,000 transplants this year. Demand always far exceeds the supply.” She encourages everyone to make their wishes regarding organ donation known to their loved ones.

By Lisa Crutchfield