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26
2014

Student scientists’ parody video “We Found Drugs” perfect prescription for research retreat

Jacy and Andrew

M.D.-Ph.D. student Andrew Van Der Vaart and Ph.D. student Jacy Jacob

Ever wonder what an anthem to neuropharmacology sounds like? If you guessed a remixed Rihanna song featuring two student scientists, you’re right.

M.D.-Ph.D. student Andrew Van Der Vaart and Ph.D. student Jacy Jacob were tasked with entertaining students at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology’s recent research retreat. They decided to write, record and film the parody music video “We Found Drugs” that has been attracting attention across the MCV Campus and social media.

The video, by all accounts, was an instant success. When played at the retreat, it received a standing ovation just “30 seconds in,” according to Jacy. It racked up nearly 1,000 YouTube views in a single day. And the Dean of the School of Medicine, Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., and other faculty reportedly had a good laugh when they saw it at a recent meeting.

Jacy, the video’s star, nearly dropped the project before it began. Luckily an early morning email from Andrew with the song’s chorus “We found drugs in synaptic space” inspired her, and she wrote the verses in just a few hours. After about eight hours of filming and a couple recording sessions in Andrew’s impromptu home music studio, “We Found Drugs” was finished.

While the video has certainly enjoyed wide popularity, it does include a couple jokes that only pharmacology and toxicology insiders will get. The first is the celebrity cameo by Michael Miles, M.D., Ph.D., a pharmacology and toxicology professor, who, according to Andrew, is a strong supporter of the scientific parody video genre. The other joke requires a keener eye for detail and a pharmacological sense of humor. The video mocks the often difficult to remember names of designer drugs by inventing a few of its own, from the almost-believable “Gliditizaglib” to the not-quite-as-believable “Cinnamonnanabun.”

Andrew and Jacy are debating the next step for their video. As “We Found Drugs” continues to collect YouTube views and Facebook shares, they are considering entering it into some competitions, such as the “Lab Grammys,” where it could win even greater acclaim. For now, Andrew and Jacy are content with having created their own anthem of neuropharmacology and having had a little fun along the way.

By Jack Carmichael

26
2014

Saving football: neuroscientist Ray Colello’s research garners nationwide media attention

Ray Colello

Ray Colello, Ph.D.

Could lightweight, rare earth magnets reduce the force of a head-to-head collision on the football field?

That’s the question that’s occupying Ray Colello, Ph.D., this NFL season.

“Helmet to helmet collisions are considered one of the primary means by which concussions occur in football,” says the associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology, who’s also an avid football fan. “Repeated concussions can lead to severe brain disease, and the average collegiate football player will take over 500 hits to the head over a season of games and practices.”

On Nov. 15, he presented findings at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience showing neodymium magnets can generate repulsive forces of over 300-fold their weight that could be used to reduce the impact forces generated during helmet-to-helmet collision.

The proposition has caught the interest of the science press and, in the days following his presentation, he’s done more than two dozen interviews with news outlets like NPR, the journal Science and Scientific American.

Colello’s research has been supported by the VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund. His next step will be to field-test the magnets by fitting them inside football helmets worn by crash-test dummies.

Such tests could mimic the indirect hits and rotational forces that come into play in a football game. “We don’t want to trade concussions with spinal cord injuries,” Colello told the journal Science.

Read more about Colello’s discovery.

 

26
2014

Housestaff alumnus Jeffrey Lamont named Wisconsin’s Pediatrician of the Year

Jeffrey Lamont

Jeffrey Lamont, H’82, has been named Pediatrician of the Year by the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (WIAPP). It is the chapter’s most prestigious honor.

Lamont has practiced in Wisconsin for 30 years, and his work in school health on behalf of WIAAP has also earned a national Award of Excellence from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Dr. Lamont is a central member of our chapter and a vocal advocate for children and their physicians,” said James Meyer, M.D., Wisconsin chapter president. “He is instrumental in making connections with our state public health initiatives, especially in the domain of school health, where his involvement has raised the bar of excellence in training and education for school health personnel.”

Lamont has served as WIAPP’s School Health Chair for over a decade and this year completed his tenure as immediate past president of the chapter. He serves the national AAP in his role on the National Nominating Committee.

“There is a lot of good work being done by a lot of Wisconsin pediatricians year in and year out,” Lamont said. “To be recognized in this way by our professional organization is about as nice a surprise as one could ask for.”

Lamont has been interested in school health for many years, working with the AAP, the state of Wisconsin and local schools.

“I have never forgotten the quality of the people I had the privilege to work with at MCV,” Lamont said. “The education I received was superb, not only in terms of hard medical knowledge but in terms of what it truly means to be a children’s physician. The faculty set a tone, a standard of conduct, that one tried to live up to.

“To this day, I’ll find myself facing a clinical dilemma and thinking of how this or that faculty member would respond to what I’m contemplating at the time. It was the frequent citing of the work of the American Academy of Pediatrics by MCV faculty, particularly Dr. Edwin Kendig, that got me involved with the AAP in the first place.”

Lamont is medical advisor for three school districts as well as Marathon County Special Education. He served from 2006-12 on the AAP’s Executive Committee of the Council on School Health and was lead author of the revision of the AAP policy statement on Out-of-School Suspension and Expulsion, published in February 2013. He also was a contributing author to AAP’s published manual and course, Pediatric First Aid for Caregivers and Teachers.

“I feel that schools are extensions and reflections of the communities they serve and should be supported as such,” Lamont said. “School health is best addressed by a full range of resources — clinics, specialty organizations, school districts and state and local government — working together to identify problems and solutions and not trying to make them the responsibility of any one entity.”

Lamont is a strong believer in involving and educating parents as well. He’s been known to turn treating a child’s earache into an opportunity to build trusting relationships: “I use teaching otoscopes, which lets the parent see what I see when I examine the child’s ear.”

Lamont has worked with Marathon County Special Education to develop the School Health Skills Day workshop for school personnel who are called upon to provide health and nursing care to students, including those with special health needs. He also serves on the Board of the Foundation of Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital, which supports the hospital’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program. The SANE program recently presented data indicating the majority of women served by the program are younger than age 18. He also has been active for many years in the American Heart Association Pediatric Advanced Life Support program. Currently serving as an instructor and as regional faculty, he credits his involvement with PALS to the influence of John Mickell, M.D., who was the director of the Pediatric ICU during his residency.

After moving to Wisconsin, Lamont practiced first with the Wausau Medical Center, an independent multi-specialty clinic. In 1997, the WMC merged with the Marshfield Clinic, and Lamont has practiced with the Marshfield Clinic in Weston since then.

12
2014

#GreatGood: Ph.D. student’s research explores social media

Chair of surgery

Jeanine Guidry, Ph.D. student in the Department of Social and Behavioral Health

Like many graduate students, Jeanine Guidry approached her thesis project with apprehension and perhaps a little dread. Who, after all, enjoys countless hours of research?

“Apparently me!” Jeanine said with a laugh. “As I was working on my thesis, I realized I loved it.”

So much so that after earning her master’s in strategic communications from George Washington University, she decided to pursue a Ph.D. She is on pace to graduate in 2018 from the medical school’s Department of Social and Behavioral Health.

“I’m loving everything about it so far,” Jeanine said. “I’ve always had a real passion for nonprofits and helping people who are struggling in life.”

Jeanine’s area of focus is on the use of social media and mobile technology in health communication, as well as the use of social media among nonprofits. Her recent work analyzes how the public uses social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest to communicate their experiences, fears and thoughts on such timely topics as vaccines, depression and Ebola.

Pinterest users, for example, pair text and graphics, like the person who expressed just how debilitating depression can be: “I lost myself somewhere in the darkness.”

“The range of experiences and the range of topics is incredibly broad,” Jeanine said. “Health affects all of us, and it affects all of us differently. With social media, we can express that in a totally new way.”

Chair of surgery

Jeanine’s research examines how the public uses social media like Pinterest to communicate their experiences, fears and thoughts on such timely topics as vaccines, depression and Ebola.

She presented her paper “Framing Public Health Issues with Images: How Pinterest Tells Stories of Depression” at the Digital Disruption to Journalism and Mass Communication Theory Conference in Brussels, Belgium, on October 3. She presented another paper about vaccines over the summer in Montreal.

“More people than ever are getting information from social media platforms like Twitter and Pinterest, and it’s imperative that we as researchers understand how this type of information exchange is affecting public opinion and knowledge of public health issues,” said Jeanine’s advisor, Kellie E. Carlyle, Ph.D., assistant professor and graduate program director. “Jeanine’s research into understanding how public health issues are portrayed in social media gives public health researchers the information needed to design effective messages that promote healthy behaviors.”

Jeanine would not be able to conduct her research, she said, without the support and encouragement of Marcus Messner, Ph.D., associate professor at the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. Jeanine is an affiliate graduate researcher with the School’s Center for Media+Health.

“They make what I do possible,” she said.

At 47, Jeanine is not your typical student. She grew up in the Netherlands and earned her bachelor’s and first master’s in health sciences from Maastricht University. She moved to the United States in 1991, met her future husband Chris and married in 1997. She has worked in community development and with nonprofits since.

Chair of surgery

Even as she works toward her Ph.D., Jeanine is the lead singer for the Offering, a band that plays for organizations that can’t afford to hire musicians. She also is the executive director for Arts in the Alley, a Richmond-based nonprofit that turns rundown streets into works of art through murals. “My days are incredibly fulfilling,” Jeanine said. “I love what I do.”

Jeanine is looking forward to tackling her dissertation on social media’s changing landscape. While Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest may be three of the most popular platforms today, it could be very different by the time she finishes her dissertation.

“Just look at Pinterest,” Jeanine said. “People at first thought it was just a visual platform, but it’s amazing to see how people talk about their struggles with depression or their fears of Ebola. Who knows what’s next.”

Many people turn to social media not only for information, but for support in dealing with a chronic illness or the loss of a loved one.

“We don’t know what platforms will be popular in a few years,” Jeanine said. “Social media is developing at such breakneck speed. There are so many conversations happening out there that we can get involved in and use social media for great good.”

Did you know?

  • Facebook has more than 1 billion active users
  • Twitter users send 500 million tweets every day
  • 23 percent of Pinterest’s 70 million total consumers use it at least once a day
  • 70 percent of Snapchat users are female
  • 23 percent of teens consider Instagram their favorite social network
  • 12 million-plus people blog via social networks

Courtesy SocialTimes.com

By Janet Showalter

06
2014

Washington Post talks with Peter Boling about the enduring value of house calls

Peter Boling

Peter Boling, M.D., H’84

Since 1984, Peter Boling, M.D., H’84, has been making house calls to visit frail, elderly patients who would find it difficult to make it to the doctor’s office for an appointment.

He’s convinced it’s the way to help them avoid costly hospital stays – and save the health care system money in the meantime.

Washington Post reporter Jeff Guo recently spent a day with him to learn more about the enduring value of house calls.

“The idea is to deliver health care where it’s best for the patient,” Boling told Guo. “If the clinic is the right place for them, then come to the clinic. If it’s hard for them to come to the clinic, short-term or long-term, we’ll go to them.”

All medical students go on a house call with Boling’s team. One of his goals, he tells the Washington Post “is to have established an economic model that makes this a desirable mode of practice.”

A professor of internal medicine and chair of the Division of Geriatric Medicine, Boling was instrumental in developing the Independence at Home Act that is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. His is one of 19 sites nationwide to participate in a demonstration to test the advantages of house calls for elderly patients too ill or disabled to visit their physicians.

Read the Washington Post story: One doctor’s old-fashioned idea to cut health care spending: house calls.

27
2014

5 Commandments for Young Scientists from alumnus Sebastian Joyce

Chair of surgery

Sebastian Joyce, PhD’88

When Sebastian Joyce arrived on the MCV Campus to pursue his Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology in the early 1980s, he’d come farther than most: more than 12,000 miles, from Bangalore, India.

“I was as fresh off the boat as it gets,” says Joyce, “and I left a man. I came here a peasant, and walked away a scholar.”

He credits his transformation to the freedom he was given by his mentor T. Mohanakumar, D.V.M., Ph.D., to think independently and pursue scientific discovery in his own way.

He’s still doing that today. As a professor in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at Vanderbilt University, he’s developing the unconventional approach of using T cell-targeted vaccines against infectious diseases.

“He is on the cutting-edge of finding the most effective approaches for preventing infection,” says Phillip B. Hylemon, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology and immunology who was on Joyce’s dissertation committee when he was a Ph.D. candidate in the 1980s.

Joyce described his novel approaches to vaccine development when he spoke at VCU earlier this month at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology’s Research Seminar Series. “Vaccines are man’s greatest inventions,” he told his audience as he enthusiastically recounted for them his lab’s efforts to design vaccines to prevent and treat infectious diseases that plague humankind.

Joyce’s creative and innovative science has won him sustained grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, and his publication record includes the prestigious Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Nurturing the next generation of scientists is a priority for Joyce. He challenged established scientists to take seriously their responsibility to their trainees with the sentiment expressed in his own lab’s motto: “Inspire young minds: to wonder and imagine; to explore and innovate; to discover and evolve.”

5 Commandments for Young Scientists

1. Be curious
2. Read widely and think broadly about everything, and particularly your own project
3. Question everything, especially dogma
4. Devise simple yet clever experiments
5. Find answers by yourself

Joyce also spoke directly to the students in the audience, encouraging them with his 5 Commandments for Young Scientists. On his last commandment — “Find answers by yourself” — Joyce challenged students: “You don’t have to listen to the gray haired, the balding [older generation] or go to them with all your questions. If they already knew all the answers, there would be no point in you doing the experiment!”

Read about Joyce’s scientific odyssey on the his lab website.