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Grandchildren ensure alumnus’ legacy lives on through scholarship

Joe Smith (middle) meets the Class of 2017’s John Weeks (left), the recipient of the scholarship that bears the name of his grandfather, the Class of 1911’s Henry Clay Smith (right).

Joe Smith (middle) meets the Class of 2017’s John Weeks (left), the recipient of the scholarship that bears the name of his grandfather, the Class of 1911’s Henry Clay Smith (right).

As a young boy, Joe Smith visited his beloved Grandad every year in Burkeville, Virginia. Growing up in a military family, at times living as far west as California, he and his siblings shared fond memories of those annual trips to rural Virginia.

Their grandfather Henry Clay Smith from the Class of 1911 practiced family medicine out of his home and Smith recalls watching patients come over for appointments as the grandchildren played nearby.

“Grandad would see patients at the house and we would watch them come and go,” Smith says.

His grandfather practiced family medicine in rural Virginia for 61 years and was known to be loved and respected by his patients, many of whom he counted as friends. In 1976, two years after the physician’s passing, his children established the Henry Clay Smith M.D. Memorial Scholarship to honor his life and devotion to medicine.

Each year, the scholarship is given to a graduating fourth-year student interested in providing health care to rural Virginians. Joe Smith recently had the opportunity to visit the MCV Campus and meet this year’s scholarship recipient, John Weeks, M’17.

During medical school, Weeks participated in the International/Inner City/Rural Preceptorship program, a four-year program for students who declare an interest in and commitment to working with medically underserved populations in urban, rural or international settings.

Prior to medical school, Weeks spent three years as an outreach worker on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. He returned to the community during his third-year family medicine clerkship and fourth-year community immersion elective. “People think that to truly find the underserved, you have to go international,” Weeks said of his time on the Shore. “But that’s just not the case. All you have to do is open your eyes and look around you. The biggest similarity of all underserved populations, regardless of location, is access.”

In June, Weeks began his residency at the University of Colorado, Denver, to train in family medicine.

“It’s really rewarding for me to see someone like John receive this scholarship,” says Smith, who has faithfully supported the Henry Clay Smith M.D. Memorial Scholarship for many years. Earlier this year, the fund also received a substantial gift from the estate of Smith’s sister Elizabeth, who passed away in 2016.

Their gifts ensure that their grandfather’s name will appear on the donor wall in the McGlothlin Medical Education Center at the conclusion of the medical school’s 1838 Campaign. Donors who make leadership gifts to the 1838 Fund or to a new or existing scholarship endowment, like the Henry Clay Smith M.D. Memorial Scholarship, will appear on the donor will.

For the Smith family, it marks a fitting tribute to a cherished grandfather whose legacy now lives on in educating future generations of physicians committed to serving those most in need.

By Polly Roberts


Reynolds Jr. Chair in Neuro-Oncology propels work of Mark G. Malkin

Mark G. Malkin, M.D., holds the William G. Reynolds Jr. Chair in Neuro-Oncology.

Mark G. Malkin, M.D., holds the William G. Reynolds Jr. Chair in Neuro-Oncology.

CALL OUT BOX: Endowed chairs and professorships are among the highest forms of recognition provided by a university to a faculty member. These prestigious positions are critical in recruiting, retaining and supporting the work of distinguished faculty. The funding provides the resources needed to take their work to the next level.

Less than 1 percent of neurologists in the country are board-certified in neuro-oncology, a subspecialty that treats patients with cancers of the brain and spinal cord. In Virginia, more than 700 people are affected by primary malignant brain tumors each year, and about 4,000 more face complications from other cancers that have spread to the nervous system.

Mark G. Malkin, M.D., is the only board-certified neuro-oncologist in the Richmond, Virginia, area and one of just three in Virginia. In 2013, he was recruited by VCU from the Medical College of Wisconsin to build from scratch a comprehensive neuro-oncology program at VCU.

Today, that program is thriving. Malkin developed a neuro-oncology program with both clinical and academic elements, enlisting a staff of two more neuro-oncologists, a neuropsychologist and a nurse practitioner. In addition to seeing patients and creating an educational program for medical students, neurology residents and hematology-oncology fellows, Malkin has dedicated much of his time to research.

“Our team is focusing on translational research that takes innovative ideas from bench to bedside,” he says. “We’re able to bring the science that has been developed in the lab and apply it in our own clinical trials.”

In its first year, the team saw 33 patients, with one patient par­ticipating in the division’s single clinical trial. This year, Malkin says, the team is on track to see 294 new patients. In 2016, 19 patients participated in nine clinical trials, including a phase I study of the drug dimethyl fumurate used with standard care for glioblastoma, the most common primary malignant brain tumor.

“The initial lab experiments that suggested we explore this possible treatment further were conducted right here at Massey Cancer Center,” Malkin says. In June, he traveled to Chicago to present the results of the trial at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, where 38,000 oncology professionals from around the world gathered to discuss the latest developments in cancer research.

Malkin’s recruitment and successes on campus can be attrib­uted, at least partially, to the William G. Reynolds Jr. Chair in Neuro-Oncology he holds. Reynolds, former vice president of government relations and public affairs at the Reynolds Metals Co. and former member of the MCV Foundation board of trustees, died from a brain tumor in 2003. In 2006, the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation pledged $1 million to support the VCU School of Medicine to establish, in his memory, VCU’s first chair in neuro-oncology.

“We believe that William G. Reynolds Jr. would share our enthusiasm for the pioneering work being done in his memory by Mark Malkin,” says Richard S. Reynolds III, the foundation’s president and cousin of William Reynolds. “We are very excited with his work and know that his achievements will only grow in importance as he continues in that field.”

Until now, the next nearest neuro-oncology specialist was located at the University of Virginia Health System in Char­lottesville, Virginia. Ashlee Loughan, Ph.D., who specializes in neuropsychology on Malkin’s team, says that many of their patients can’t drive because of physical or cognitive side effects of their treatments and depend on family members or friends to get to their appointments.

“So many of our patients have commented on what a relief it is to have more convenient care,” Loughan says. “Our team is committed to doing anything we can to reduce the burden on our patients and their families.”

Malkin says none of this progress would have been possible without the generosity of the Reynolds Foundation. He sees endless opportunity for the program’s continued development. In addition to holding clinics at hospitals in downtown Rich­mond, Stony Point and South Hill, Malkin is now focusing on increasing the program’s reach into the community by expanding as far as Williamsburg, Virginia, to make expert care even more accessible to patients in need.

This story by Brelyn Powell first appeared in Vol. 11 of Impact, VCU’s quarterly publication that shares stories about how philanthropy makes an impact for students, faculty and programs.


A voice for all children

Colleen Kraft, M'86, H'89, takes the reins as president of the American Academy of Pediatrics on Jan. 1.

Colleen Kraft, M’86, H’89, takes the reins as president of the American Academy of Pediatrics on Jan. 1. Earlier this year, she spoke at the 39th Annual Pediatrics at the Beach CME conference in Virginia Beach.

If it takes a village to raise a child, then Colleen Kraft, M’86, H’89, might say it takes a pediatrician who knows that village to heal one.

Spending time in the community is what opened Kraft’s eyes to the daily issues and concerns facing the children and families she cared for in the office. Nothing, Kraft says, can replace the education you receive when you observe a child’s everyday environment. Some of her greatest insights came during conversations at the park, visits to the local library, school nurse’s office, daycare centers and church nurseries.

“Kids spend 15 minutes in the office but they live in the community,” she says. “Your investment in the community is what really makes a difference.”

Kraft counts herself as someone who’s been on the receiving end of community investment. Growing up near Akron, Ohio, she was part of the inaugural class of Head Start in 1965. It was there that the seed to become a doctor was planted.

“One of the teachers said, ‘You’re so smart. You could be a doctor when you grow up,'” Kraft recalls.

She carried those words with her throughout her years as a student and trainee. They continued to inspire her when she embarked on a career as a pediatrician, founded the pediatric residency program at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and taught on the medical faculties of the MCV Campus and the University of Cincinnati.

She carries them with her still as she prepares to take the reins in January for a one-year term as president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

As part of her new role, Kraft served as the keynote speaker for the 39th annual Pediatrics at the Beach conference in Virginia Beach in July. Hosted by the VCU Department of Pediatrics, the continuing medical education course regularly attracts attendees from all over the country and Canada, and sometimes as far away as Saudi Arabia. This year’s 300-plus attendees marked the conference’s largest turnout ever.

Kraft encouraged the gathering of physicians, nurses, medical assistants, medical students and others to be a voice for all children.

“We’re the advocates,” she said. “We know what children need.”

Whether that translates to lobbying for Medicaid funding or working to address bias and discrimination concerns, she reminded the group of another adage about children: they’re always listening.

“We’re in an age with a lot of talk and rhetoric,” she said. “Watch what you’re saying. Children are always listening and they are looking for heroes. That’s where we come in.”

For Kraft, community involvement has no borders. She has worked at hospitals in India, researched neonatal mortality in Ghana and trained nurses in South Africa.

“As pediatricians, we care about kids all over the world,” she says.

In addition to working to improve children’s health, Kraft also aims to improve the health of pediatricians in her role as AAP president. Finding ways to address physician burnout is critical, she says, and advances in technology and team-based care can help.

It’s all about making more time in the day for patients, and spending less time on paperwork and charting. She advised conference attendees to try scheduling a follow-up appointment using telemedicine or hiring a medical assistant to room patients and serve as a scribe as ways to reclaim time that’s been lost in present-day practices.

“We can’t do it by ourselves but we can do it with team-based care,” she says.

It’s the same team philosophy that she applies when talking to members of the community and what inspired her to co-author the book “Managing Chronic Health Conditions in Child Care and Schools,” a resource guide that emphasizes how conditions from asthma to autism are best cared for through partnerships among families, health care professionals and schools.

Sharing pediatric knowledge with these partners results in an empowered community, Kraft says. And that’s how to ensure families and communities, “Go to their pediatrician before Google.”

By Polly Roberts


M74 alumna Edith Mitchell is 2017 ASTRO Honorary Member

Edith Peterson Mitchell, M’74, has been chosen as the 2017 American Society for Radiation Oncology Honorary Member.

Edith Peterson Mitchell, M’74, has been chosen as the 2017 American Society for Radiation Oncology Honorary Member.

Edith Peterson Mitchell, M’74, a leading researcher, medical oncologist and proponent of combined modality treatment, has been chosen as the 2017 American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) Honorary Member. Mitchell will receive this award, which is the highest honor ASTRO awards to distinguished cancer researchers and leaders in disciplines outside of radiation oncology, radiobiology or radiation physics, at ASTRO’s 59th Annual Meeting in San Diego on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017.

“Dr. Edith Mitchell has been a longtime proponent of combined modality treatment — using chemotherapy and radiation therapy together in order to provide cancer patients with the best possible outcomes,” says ASTRO Chair David C. Beyer, M.D., FASTRO. “Our specialty is privileged to have a champion such as Dr. Mitchell, who is a widely respected clinician as well as decorated military veteran. Her service to both our country and our field is laudable.”

Mitchell is board certified in internal medicine and medical oncology and serves as a clinical professor of medicine and medical oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. She also serves as the associate director for diversity programs and director of the Center to Eliminate Cancer Disparities for the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson. Additionally, Mitchell served as the 116th president of the National Medical Association.

Her work on chemoradiation for gastrointestinal cancers has helped raise the profile of radiation oncology by providing clinical evidence for the merits of combined modality treatment. Through the NRG Oncology/Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), she has provided medical oncology leadership for prospective chemoradiation trials defining standards of care for gastrointestinal malignancies. As a result, Mitchell has authored several peer-reviewed publications on the RTOG trials 0012 and 0247.

“The RTOG trials helped break new ground for radiation oncology,” says ASTRO Immediate Past Chair Bruce D. Minsky, MD, FASTRO, who nominated Mitchell for this award. “Edith is a strong advocate and friend of radiation oncology. I can think of no other medical oncologist who has made more significant positive contributions to our community.”

She has also had leadership positions in trials examining breast, colon and pancreatic cancers involving new drug evaluation and chemotherapy, development of new therapeutic regimens, patient selection criteria and supportive care for patients with gastrointestinal cancer.

Mitchell graduated from Tennessee State University in Nashville with a bachelor’s in biochemistry. She completed her internship and residency at Meharry Medical College followed by a fellowship in medical oncology at Georgetown University.

Mitchell received a commission through the Health Professions Scholarship Program in 1973 to join the Air Force while in medical school. She entered active duty after completing her fellowship at Georgetown. Mitchell is now a retired brigadier general, the first female physician to attain this rank in the history of the U.S. Air Force. Over her military career, she has been awarded more than 15 service medals and ribbons, including the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal and Humanitarian Service Medal, among others.

In her medical career, Mitchell has authored or co-authored more than 130 articles, book chapters and abstracts on cancer treatment, prevention and cancer control. She has served on several National Cancer Institute review panels, including the Clinical Trials and Translational Research Advisory Committee and the Blue Ribbon Panel convened to advise the National Cancer Advisory Board on former Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative. She was awarded the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Control Award for her significant commitment to research, education and diversity.

Mitchell says she is honored to receive the 2017 ASTRO Honorary Membership and looks forward to further research on combined modality therapeutic interventions.

Courtesy of American Society for Radiation Oncology


M4 Justin Mauser: Mind Over Mountains

M4 Justin Mauser used a 900-mile bike tour to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

M4 Justin Mauser used a 900-mile bike tour to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. You can see more photos from his bike tour and read his blog at https://meditate.bike/#intro.

Pedaling through the Great Divide Basin of Wyoming with a cool breeze against his face, Justin Mauser, M’18, couldn’t help but reflect on his journey to medical school.

“Sometimes people think they can’t clear their mind while engaged in a physical activity,” he says. “But surrounded by all that beauty in wide open spaces, it was very meditative.”

Mauser spent two weeks in August on a self-supported bike tour along the Continental Divide Trail to raise funds and awareness for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He and a friend, Cedric Bosch, traveled by bicycle for about 900 miles from Dillon, Montana, to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He returned to northern Virginia, where he is completing his fourth-year of medical school at the School of Medicine’s Inova Fairfax Campus, on Aug. 20.

“Suicide is taboo and frightening; people don’t necessarily want to talk about it,” Mauser says. “It’s important to bring more awareness to suicide and let anyone who might be headed down that road know there is a network of support for them.”

“Suicide is taboo and frightening; people don’t necessarily want to talk about it,” Mauser says. “It’s important to bring more awareness to suicide and let anyone who might be headed down that road know there is a network of support for them.”

Mauser’s “Mind Over Mountains” tour is his second major bike trip. In 2011, he trekked from Bar Harbor, Maine, to his alma mater, the University of Arizona in Tucson. The ride raised more than $8,000 for Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona.

“It’s rewarding to turn these rides into something that benefits others,” he says.

Growing up in Tucson, Mauser always wanted to be a doctor. But he wasn’t sure he would ever reach his goal. He was denied admission to medical school twice before he was accepted to VCU.

“I tell people all the time to never give up on their dreams,” he says. “Keep working toward your goal. I hope I can motivate others.”

On reflection, Mauser realizes the wait was beneficial. It gave him time to earn his EMT certification, to volunteer in hospice and work as a hospital scribe.

“The amount of growth I’ve seen in myself has been incredible,” he says. “I realize that when you step in a room you can have a big impact on the health of a patient – whether you are brightening their day with a joke or helping them feel better through medicine. It’s gratifying to see their improvement.”

“I ride to not only expand my own horizons and challenge myself, but to turn that challenge into something bigger than myself,” he says. “If I can do something that benefits others, it’s so much more powerful.”

“I ride to not only expand my own horizons and challenge myself, but to turn that challenge into something bigger than myself,” he says. “If I can do something that benefits others, it’s so much more powerful.”

His bike tours have also helped him connect with people. On his recent ride, he met a group of bikers while seeking refuge at a church in Pinedale, Wyoming. Some had come from as far away as Italy, Ireland and Great Britain to conquer the Continental Divide Mountain biking Trail.

“We rode together for a few days,” Mauser says. “It was amazing to meet others from around the world and form a bond with them. It was like we knew each other for years after less than a week.”

During his rides he has also noted how making time for meditation, eating healthy foods and getting plenty of sleep improved his mood. He hopes to share his findings with his classmates as part of the Getting Progressively Stronger Student Wellness program.

“I’m so proud of Justin,” says Homan Wai, M.D., director of the Student Wellness program. “Having a passion and sticking to it is a great lesson for us all. We want our students to be humanistic, to have that inner passion to help people.”

Justin Mauser’s bike tour raised about $2,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. For more information about the nonprofit, visit www.afsp.org. The foundation also offers a hotline for people in crisis, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Mauser is already looking forward to his next ride, wherever it may take him.

“I ride to not only expand my own horizons and challenge myself, but to turn that challenge into something bigger than myself,” he says. “If I can do something that raises awareness of a serious issue, it’s so much more powerful.”

By Janet Showalter


Opioids: an American health crisis

Overdose deaths in the U.S. involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ninety-one Americans die daily from an opioid overdose and more than 1,000 are treated daily in emergency departments for not using prescription opioids as directed.

In 2016, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Health Commissioner Marissa Levine declared the opioid addiction crisis a public health emergency in Virginia.

At VCU and VCU Health, efforts are underway to combat this public health crisis — through addiction treatment, pain management, health care policy, education and research. The below news articles, videos and continuing education opportunities provide a snapshot of those efforts.

VCU News opioid series

VCU Health Facebook Live opioid series

Continuing medical education

VCU News opioid series

To end the opioid epidemic, VCU health sciences faculty are changing the way pain management is taught
In the School of Medicine, changes mean explaining new CDC guidelines, discussing opioid alternatives and guiding students on how to adjust patient expectations. Students also go through a simulation exercise where they must revive a patient who has overdosed on opioids. “We want students to leave with the idea that chronic pain should be managed primarily with non-opioid medications, which has not been the way of thinking in recent history.”

VCU researchers combat opiate addiction
Researchers are fighting the opioid epidemic by brainstorming more effective clinical approaches, elucidating the biological mechanisms of addiction and developing safer alternatives for pain relief.

VCU Health outpatient clinic treats addiction with compassion and medication
Cathy Wilson greets the diverse group of patients she sees every week with the same line: “If it were easy, I’d tell you to go home and stop using. But it’s not that easy and that’s why we’re here to help you.”

VCU Health Pain Resource Nurse Program adopts ‘never just opioids’ approach for treatment
At VCU Health, nurses are studying alternative pain methods, and being taught how to address varied pain levels, responsibly. In 2013, VCU Health began its Pain Resource Nurse Program, an effort to improve care for those with pain and teach multi-modal treatment of acute/chronic cancer and non-cancer pain and addiction.

VCU to lead evaluation of new state-sponsored substance abuse treatment program
The Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services has selected VCU to lead a five-year evaluation of the state’s new Addiction Recovery Treatment Services program. A major statewide initiative that started in April, the ARTS program is intended to address the rise of opioid-related deaths in Virginia by enhancing Medicaid-sponsored substance use disorder treatment services.

Study: Women who fixate on chronic pain more likely to be prescribed opioids
Female chronic pain sufferers who negatively fixate on their symptoms report greater pain intensity and are more likely to have an opioid prescription than men with the same condition, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and led by current VCU medical student Yasamin Sharifzadeh.

New free community series brings VCU experts to Regency Square
An interactive presentation on Wednesday, Sept. 20, will provide an overview of the opiate epidemic in Virginia. Experts will talk about current Virginia statistics and what is happening in local communities. They will also review some of the changes happening to address the opioid epidemic, including increasing continuing education for a variety of providers, community resources and training, and treatment resources.

Heroin and prescription painkiller overdoses kill at least two Virginians every day, VCU reports
Nearly 80 percent of the almost 1,000 fatal drug overdoses in Virginia in 2014 involved prescription painkillers or heroin, known as opioids, according to a new policy brief by researchers at VCU School of Medicine.

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VCU Health Facebook Live opioid series

VCU Health hosted Facebook Live interviews with institutional experts to highlight efforts underway at the health system and VCU aimed at combating the opioid epidemic. Viewers were invited to participate by submitting questions and comments during the interviews. Interviews broadcasted live at facebook.com/vcuhealth.

• VCU School of Medicine professor F. Gerard Moeller, M.D., discusses medical school curriculum changes related to opioid prescribing practices.

• VCU School of Dentistry professor Omar Abubaker, D.M.D., Ph.D., discusses his commitment to learning about the disease that took his son’s life and the educational initiatives at the dentistry and nursing schools that are related to opioid prescribing practices and addiction treatment.

• VCU School of Medicine assistant clinical professor Jenny Fox, M.D., discusses efforts to combat and treat neonatal abstinence syndrome at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

• VCU professor of medicine and health administration Alan Dow, M.D., discusses continuing medical education initiatives hosted at VCU that are aimed at aligning opioid prescription practices throughout the commonwealth with new state and national guidelines.

• VCU School of Medicine professor Mishka Terplan, M.D., discusses the addiction recovery services offered at VCU Health and the newly opened VCU Health Motivate Clinic.

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Continuing medical education

Best Practices in Pain Management – Primary Care and Specialty Collaboration
Sept. 16-17, 2017
Williamsburg, Virginia

Stepping Stones to Excellence in Wound Care
Sept. 28-29, 2017
Richmond, Virginia

Safe Opiate Prescribing
Online Course

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Updated: 04/29/2016