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Alumna Emily Edelman honored by National Society for Genetics Counselors

Over the past eight years, Emily Edelman, MS’06, has devoted time, energy and expertise in her volunteer work with the National Society for Genetics Counselors. Her service was recognized with the NSGC’s 2015 Outstanding Volunteer Award at its annual education conference in Pittsburgh on Oct. 22.

Edelman has served the society on five task forces, chaired the personalized medicine special interest group and led the abstract review committee. But she may be most passionate about her work with the NSGC Education Committee that is responsible for the society’s annual education conference, webinar and online course planning and execution.

Genetic counselor Emily Edelman, MS’06

Genetic counselor Emily Edelman, MS’06

“Genetic information is increasingly relevant to patients and clinicians in many different medical specialties,” Edelman said. “As the number of clinically applicable genetic and genomic tests increases across health care, education is more important than ever. Patients and consumers need to be able to make informed decisions about genetic information and managing providers need to know when and how to implement genetics into their practice. Genetic counselors can help achieve these goals by keeping abreast of discoveries in the field and translating emerging tests and applications to patient care.”

According to Sara Hammer Riordan who nominated her for the award, Edelman has extensive experience with developing educational programs for health care providers both inside and outside of the genetic counseling field has been valuable to the NSGC.

Edelman works in the genomic education program at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. As the associate director of clinical and continuing education, she develops educational content for diverse health professional audiences.

In her nomination, Riordan also credits Edelman with working to move the genetic counseling profession forward.

“Her innovative work in developing genetic educational programs for a diverse spectrum of health care providers has paved the way for other genetic counselors to enter into this nontraditional career path,” said Riordan, who is clinical program manager with the IMPACT cancer care program at Thermo Fisher Scientific and a director-at-large with NSGC. “Her multiple invited presentations at national conferences, meetings and seminars clearly demonstrate that she is seen as a leader in our field.”

Edelman is a diplomate of the American Board of Genetic Counseling. She earned a master’s degree in genetic counseling from the VCU School of Medicine in 2006. The medical school’s M.S. program in Genetic Counseling is the only one in Virginia. It was established in 1990 and has more than 90 graduates.


Safety Net Collaborative a win-win for VCU and Richmond

When three safety net primary care clinics in Richmond found they could not fully meet the mental health needs of their patients, they knew they had to find a solution to provide these critical services to the city’s most vulnerable populations.

Rachel Waller, M’99

Rachel Waller, M’99

With over half of all patients receiving substandard or no mental health care, the clinics needed to provide thousands of behavioral care sessions to their patients. But where to find a group psychologists willing to contribute hundreds of hours of work at little or no cost?

Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D., a professor in VCU’s Department of Psychology, had the perfect answer: his doctoral trainees. As a result, since 2008 trainees have delivered over 8,500 pro bono sessions at the Ambulatory Care Center on the MCV Campus, the Daily Planet for the Homeless and the Fan Free Clinic.

The Safety Net Primary Care Psychology Collaborative has proved fruitful for everyone involved. The clinics are able to better cover the mental health needs of their patients, while the doctoral students get valuable experience working with a wide-range of patients. Most importantly, the medically underserved in the Richmond community get access to the care they need.

Rachel Waller, M’99, has seen the benefits of the collaborative firsthand through her work on the internal medicine service at the Ambulatory Care Center.

“Integrating mental and physical health care is important because you cannot have good control of physical health outcomes when mental health issues such as anxiety and depression go untreated. In our patient population, with limited care access and transportation issues, having psychology resources available during the primary care visit is vital.”

“The ‘warm handoff,’ in which a primary care provider introduces the clinical psychology services team to the patient can really improve willingness to seek care, particularly since there remains an unfortunate stigma for many in acknowledging that they are experiencing mental health issues.”

Integrating mental and physical health care services at the clinics has been an effective method for improving patient outcomes. Behavioral and physical health problems are often interconnected; treating one side of a patient’s problems but not the other often means more care, and more costs, down the road. Study findings show patients receiving this type of integrated healthcare had fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

Psychology professor Bruce Rybarcyz and vice provost for community engagement Catherine Howard celebrated the success of the Safety Net Collaborative this spring’s Currents of Change Award Ceremony. Photo credit: Steven Casanova.

Psychology professor Bruce Rybarcyz and vice provost for community engagement Catherine Howard celebrated the success of the Safety Net Collaborative this spring’s Currents of Change Award Ceremony. Photo credit: Steven Casanova.

These results are evident on the MCV Campus. Waller, who works as an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, says the clinic has seen “decreased admission rates for medical illness for our patients who utilize clinical psychology students compared to controls.”

The success of the program has not gone unnoticed. This year the collaborative won VCU’s Currents of Change Award, which recognizes mutually beneficial partnerships between the university and the Richmond community.

This experience in collaborative, team-based care is invaluable for both medical and psychology trainees. Since the collaboration began, 65 doctoral students have worked at the clinics, six of whom have gone on to work in integrated care positions as a result of their experience at VCU.

Medical residents also benefit from the help offered by their colleagues in the psychology department, as many report greater work satisfaction and significant benefits for their patients since the collaboration started.

Waller says that outpatient care is moving from a model that emphasizes productivity to one that focuses on medical outcomes. Cohesive, interdisciplinary teams like the collaborative will be better equipped to meet the demands of the newly emerging outpatient medical system.


Class of 2018’s Anne Byrd Mahoney authors first-person account for Richmond Academy of Medicine’s newsletter

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The Class of 2018’s Anne Byrd Mahoney describes her medical school experience in the fall issue of RAMifications, the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s newsletter.

Her mother’s a pediatrician but that didn’t stop a young Anne Byrd Mahoney from rebelling against trips to the doctor’s office. “I can remember screaming and crying when the nurse asked me to read the eye exam chart, thinking that if I stalled long enough I wouldn’t have to get a shot at the end of my visit.”

In a first-person article in the fall issue of the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s newsletter, Mahoney recounts her change of heart. Opportunities to shadow a heart surgeon and a family practice doctor during her senior year of high school definitively sparked her interest in a medical career.

She entered the medical school with the Class of 2018 last fall and is now a student representative on the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s board of trustees. In her newsletter article she gives readers a view of what medical school is like today as students face the prospect of a cap on residency positions, medical school debt and uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act.

Despite those challenges, “Each day, the reality that I get to learn and be a part of medicine gives me a jolt of energy that’s more powerful than anything I might buy at Starbucks.”

Mahoney got further confirmation she’s on the right track this past summer when she spent two weeks working in a medical clinic in Peru.

“My experience there made me realize that all of the tough days in medical school are worth it,” she wrote. “Every second spent scrutinizing the minute details of human physiology or of mechanisms of action of this and that drug is worth it. Any uncertainty about what lies ahead was negated by the passion I felt while working with patients.”

Mahoney is a native of Richmond and the daughter of housestaff alumna Rhoda Mahoney who practices with Pediatric Associates of Richmond. You can read Anne Byrd Mahoney’s first-person account in the fall issue of RAMifications, the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s newsletter.


Pathology’s Kimberly Sanford receives national honor as 2015’s Distinguished Pathology Educator

“My first job in the laboratory was as a phlebotomist while attending college to become a medical laboratory scientist,” says Kimberly W. Sanford, M’01, H’06. “From that point on, I knew that I had found my home.”

Kimberly W. Sanford, M’01, H’06

Kimberly W. Sanford, M’01, H’06

After graduation, she worked in a variety of laboratories around the MCV Campus before deciding to enter medical school. Today, she is an assistant professor in the medical school’s Department of Pathology and has received the Outstanding Teacher Award in the pathology introduction course for medical students for four years running. Drawing on her wide-ranging experiences, she has authored text book chapters as well as peer reviewed publications and has developed educational content at national meetings for all laboratory professionals.

This fall, she received national accolades as the recipient of the 2015 ASCP H. P. Smith Award for Distinguished Pathology Educator. The award is one of the American Society for Clinical Pathology’s highest honors. Each year, the society recognizes individuals who have made outstanding, lifelong contributions to the society and who have had distinguished careers in pathology and laboratory medicine embracing education, research and administration.

Sanford is medical director of both transfusion medicine and the Stony Point Laboratory at VCU Health. She is a three-time VCU alumna, having earned a medical technology degree from the School of Allied Health in 1991, a medical degree from the School of Medicine in 2001 and continuing on VCU’s MCV Campus to complete her pathology residency in 2006.


Family Medicine Physicians Needed, STAT!

The Class of 2018’s Mariko “Marley” Hanson has read the latest reports that detail a growing need for primary care physicians.

“I think more and more medical students are pursuing a specialty instead,” she said.

The Class of 2018’s Marley Hanson (right) was paired with Janet Eddy, M’87, H’90, through the medical school’s fmSTAT program. “When I started, I thought my mentor would just be an advisor,” Hanson said. “She has been that, but it’s been so much more. It’s grown into a wonderful friendship and partnership.”

“But I’m passionate about family medicine. It’s a great way to reach underserved populations.” According to the Annals of Family Medicine, the U.S. will need an additional 52,000 primary care physicians by 2025 to serve the aging population, as well as the added number of individuals who will have health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

But that goal may be difficult to reach, as the New York Times recently reported a decrease in the graduation rates of primary care doctors.

“A lot of students have come to the School of Medicine over the years thinking they would become family medicine doctors, but then they got lured away to a specialty,” said Carolyn Peel, M’92, H’95, assistant professor for VCU’s Department of Family Medicine and Population Health on the MCV Campus. “We’ve been thinking for years, what if we could identify students who had an interest in family medicine as part of the application process and nurture them all the way through?”

That idea came to fruition in 2010 with the development of the Family Medicine Scholars Training and Admission Tract, or fmSTAT. A dual admission program within the School of Medicine, fmSTAT is designed to develop, nurture and support medical students who are committed to the pursuit of a career in family medicine.

“This is one of the reasons I chose VCU,” Hanson said. “It made the school stand so far apart from others.”

The program got its start when Dean of Medicine
Jerry Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., asked faculty to consider a three-year accelerated program as a potential for increasing the number of students pursuing primary care. A team led by associate professor Steve Crossman, M’95, director of medical education for the VCU Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, gave the question careful consideration. In the end, they conceptualized fmSTAT instead.

“I think what our students really value with this program is that sense of community,” Peel said. “There’s this student camaraderie. The support is invaluable.”

The first class of five students entered fmSTAT in 2012 and will graduate next May, an important milestone for the program. This year’s incoming class of 10 marks the fourth set of students.

Carolyn Peel, M’92

“It has grown each year since we started,” Peel said. “We are proud of that fact.”

Students accepted into the program enjoy preferential placement with specially chosen family physician teachers and are assigned family physician mentors. They also attend semi-annual retreats and seminars and have the opportunity to shadow a family physician during the summer following their first year.

“These students are not just sitting in class next to another person,” said Judy Gary, M.Ed., fmSTAT’s educational director. “They are getting out there in the community and gaining valuable experience.” Hanson, for example, was paired with Janet Eddy, M’87, H’90, the medical director of the Bon Secours Richmond Health Care System’s Care-A-Van, a mobile clinic that provides medical care to the underserved. Both share a commitment to providing medical care to this vulnerable population.

“When I started, I thought my mentor would just be an advisor,” Hanson said. “She has been that, but it’s been so much more. It’s grown into a wonderful friendship and partnership.”

Hanson sees patients with Eddy and attends medical conferences with her. Since many of Eddy’s patients don’t speak English, Hanson is also learning Spanish.

“When they came to me and asked me to be a mentor, my initial reaction was no,” Eddy said. “I don’t really like having people in my clinic. It’s a tiny space, and most of my patients want to keep a low profile. But I also feel obligated to help. There are not enough of us around.”

They’ve known each other for a year now, but after just a few weeks, Eddy knew she made the right decision.

“It’s been so good,” she said. “Marley is learning first hand what’s good about this field, what’s great about family medicine.”

Family practitioners enjoy the unique privilege of following a patient through all stages of care and play a vital role in preventive care. They get to know not only the patient, but often the entire family. They are the initial point of contact and often have a long-term relationship with patients.

More family practitioners are needed to not only treat patients, but to help bring down the cost of medical care, Eddy said. When patients can’t get in to see a family doctor, they instead go to the emergency room or to a specialist, which is more expensive. “I just love the utility of family medicine,” Eddy said. “You can walk into any place and get done what needs to be done. It’s incredibly rewarding.”

But many medical students get wooed away from the field to more lucrative and glamorous specialties. “Medical students for the most part are in a hospital setting,” Peel said. “They don’t always see what care in the community is all about. It’s easy to lose sight of community-based care inside a hospital’s four walls.” But with fmSTAT, medical students are getting the opportunity to actively participate in family medicine their first year of school.

The fmSTAT program builds camaraderie among the students with workshops and semiannual retreats. Cross-class interaction gives students of all ages the chance to learn from each other and offer support.

“I never thought I would have this type of opportunity so soon,” Hanson said. “I’m out there [with Eddy] talking with patients and getting involved in their care. That sort of thing usually comes later. I like the idea that I’m doing this alongside other like-minded students, faculty and staff. We are like a big family.”

Cross-class communication and interaction is integral to fmSTAT, giving students of all ages the chance to learn from each other and offer support. Team-building activities have included a Top Chef-inspired competition and ropes courses.

That emphasis on camaraderie is paying off. Of the 20 students accepted into the program so far, only three have resigned, Gary said. And the program is gaining attention. U.S. News & World Report ranked VCU among the top 50 medical schools for primary care in its 2016 edition of “Best Graduate Schools.”
Hopes are running high for the future too, but Gary cautions it will take some time to determine if fmSTAT will add to the number of VCU students matching in family medicine residencies. Over the last several years, she said, about 10 percent of the School of Medicine’s class has matched in family medicine.

Did you know?

This story first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of the medical school’s alumni magazine, 12th & Marshall. You can flip through the whole issue online.

“We are so excited about the possibilities for the future,” Gary said. “We are working on building an endowment so that we can create more scholarship opportunities. We are very hopeful that this program will make a difference.”

For Hanson, it already is.

“It’s been so rewarding to be a part of this program,” she said. “I had no idea family medicine was so diverse. I know I’m in this for the long haul because I can truly make a difference in the lives of others.”

By Janet Showalter


Piece of the Past

The physician rides confidently on horseback down a dirt road, anxious to reach his destination. His patient, after all, has been waiting days for treatment.

He formulates a plan as his horse trots on. He will grind some of his most trusted ingredients into a fine powder using his pestle and mortar. He then will use a mold to shape this compound into a pill for the feverish farmer. With any luck, his patient will be back on his feet in a day or two.

Scenes like this were common in the 1800s, when house calls were the norm. Since doctors often traveled for days in rural areas before reaching their patients, it was crucial they pack everything they could possibly need to save a life.

Saddlebags, then, were vital. Physicians were careful to fill glass bottles with salts, aspirin, opiates and other ingredients, then place them inside the saddlebag’s compartments.

“They needed to be able to make solutions right on the spot,” said Andrew Bain, who manages the Medical Artifact Collection of Tompkins-McCaw Library’s Special Collection and Archives. “They became compounding architects.”

A medical saddlebag dating back to the 1880s and manufactured by George P. Wapkins Company of St. Louis, Missouri, is one of about 6,500 pieces in the school’s Medical Artifacts Collection. While few specifics are known about the piece, a little detective work reveals a lot.

“You can tell from the stitching and the thickness of the leather that this was an expensive item,” Bain said. “It was intended to convey authority and be fashionable at the same time. The doctor who carried this wanted to communicate that he was professional, someone patients could trust.”

The collection’s detailed records were not started until 1982. Since the saddlebag came into the school’s collection prior to that, Bain can only guess the specifics of the piece.

“You are transported to a different place and time just looking at it,” he said.

Did you know?

This story first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of the medical school’s alumni magazine, 12th & Marshall. You can flip through the whole issue online.

Physicians were often notified by telegram or by a messenger that services were needed. He might travel 25 to 30 miles – a full day’s ride – to treat patients suffering from tuberculosis, influenza or bacterial infections. They also were prepared to set broken bones, bandage wounds and deliver babies.

“We may not know the name of the doctor who owned this bag,” Bain said, “but we can imagine he brought comfort to a lot of people.”

By Janet Showalter