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25
2015

Class of 99’s Bob Feezor returns to campus as HM Lee Lecturer

Robert J. Feezor, M’99

During his return to Campus, Bob Feezor, M’99, stopped by the Egyptian Building and recalled how he’d taken his Boards in the Baruch Auditorium’s narrow seats. Seeing the school’s new facilities, he said, “makes me want to be a student again.”

For Robert J. Feezor, M’99, serving as the H.M. Lee Lecturer is not only a professional honor.

“It’s the highest personal privilege,” he says.

To explain, Feezor points to three pivotal years. 1999, when he earned his medical degree. 1973, when he was born in West Hospital. And 1964, when his father, Bill Feezor, became the 40th kidney transplant patient of H.M. Lee, M.D., H’61, and David Hume, M.D., the pioneering surgeons for whom the Hume-Lee Transplant Center is named.

When Feezor was invited to serve as the H. M. Lee Lecturer, it was a special moment. “I’m not an overly emotional person, but when I heard from [vascular surgery chair] Mark Levy,” he pauses for the right word, “it means a lot.”

H.M. Lee, M.D., H’61

H. M. Lee, M.D., H’61, was an internationally renowned pioneer in organ transplantation and a former professor and chairman in the Division of Vascular and Transplant Surgery.

As a second-year medical student, he had the chance to meet Lee. Feezor was doing an elective on the ethics of organ transplantation and asked to speak with the surgeon, who not only gave him his perspective on the topic, but remembered the elder Feezor. “He described him to a T,” said Feezor, who recalls that Lee even pulled out old records on his father that had Lee’s penciled-in notes filling the margins.

“I was so impressed that this very famous surgeon would make the time for a young medical student,” said Feezor. “It was the first time I’d seen you could be very accomplished and also humanistic. What I saw in Dr. Lee and other faculty members solidified my decision to go into academic medicine.”

Feezor’s father went on to become one of Lee and Hume’s longest-living kidney recipients, and his life would be entwined with MCV in big ways and small. From 1967-1976, he worked at MCV as a hospital administrator, a stint that sadly included being the administrator on duty when word came in that the private plane Hume was flying had crashed in California. “It was the hardest day of my life,” Bill Feezor told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The Class of 1999’s Feezor Is now an assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville. He also serves as program director for the fellowship program in vascular surgery. He’s passionate about teaching students and residents. He’s good at it, too – in 2005, he was awarded the national Resident Award for Exemplary Teaching by the American College of Surgeons.

Those teaching skills were on display at the Lee Lecture when Feezor chose as his topic the current management of type B aortic dissections. The clinical issue spurred a lively discussion at the end of his presentation.

Following his death in 2013, Hyung Mo “H.M.” Lee’s family, friends and colleagues made gifts in his memory to create the memorial lecture that bears his name. The focus of the annual lecture alternates between the Divisions of Transplant Surgery and Vascular Surgery.

The elder Feezor passed away in 2006, and this week marks nine years since his death – 42 years after his life-saving transplant.

20
2015

Nationally known speakers, dozens of student presenters intersect at regional neurosciences meeting

Scientists from the symposium

The symposium featured four nationally known scientists: (left-right) Ben Arenkiel, Ph.D. (Baylor College of Medicine), Vincent Pieribone, Ph.D. (Yale University), David Lyon, Ph.D. (University of California Irvine) and Michael Krashes, Ph.D. (NIDDKD).

The Kontos Medical Sciences Building was busier than a cluster of excitatory neurons on March 20 when 150 neuroscientists convened for the annual symposium of the Central Virginia Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience.

The symposium featured a quartet of nationally known speakers who travelled from UC Irvine, Yale, Baylor and the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to present the latest discoveries from their research labs. From their talks, the symposium’s topic was born: “Optogenetics, Chemogenetics and Circuit Mapping of Brain Function.”

Each speaker described some of the latest tools used by neuroscientists to uncover the connections and functions of the central nervous system. These tools ranged from using the unique properties of the rabies virus to delineate CNS connections to using fluorescent protein genes derived from ocean coral to generate voltage probes that can convert voltage changes across biological membranes into optical signals.

CVCSN student presenter winners

CVCSN student presenter winners were Jianmin Su (Virginia Tech), Kareem Clark (VCU), Claire Dixon (VCU), Joseph Balsamo (JMU) and Ryan Poland (VCU). Photo taken by Pavel Lizhnyak.

Chapter President Raymond J. Colello, Ph.D., Treasurer Andy Ottens, Ph.D., Secretary Unsong Oh, M.D., and Rory McQuiston, Ph.D., organized the symposium.

An associate professor in VCU’s Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Colello says that the annual gathering has always been a place to learn about recent findings, but it’s also an important forum for students to begin to take their place in the neuroscience community.

In an hour-long session, called a Data Blitz, eight doctoral students and post-doctoral scholars from VCU presented a series of oral presentations. They shared their research findings with an audience populated by faculty, students and post-docs from neuroscience research programs around Central Virginia.

“I was delighted how well all the students did at explaining their research and its impact within the five-minute time constraint of the Data Blitz talk,” says Colello.

VCU Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology postdoc Michael Surace presented during the Blitz. “Although the Data Blitz format presses you to present your data concisely, this may actually be a benefit,” he says. “I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of conversation it sparked with other researchers, especially those from other institutions.”

An additional poster session boasted nearly five dozen abstracts representing the work of undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs from a half dozen Virginia schools: Eastern Virginia Medical School, James Madison, VCU, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia and William and Mary.

At the end of the day, symposium organizers selected five outstanding student presenters for awards.

“It was a wonderful opportunity, not just to be able to share your work, but to see all of the amazing research being performed right in our own backyard,” said Kareem Clark, VCU graduate student and poster presentation winner. “As a grad student, a regional meeting such as this one is great for networking and finding potential post-doctoral positions locally.”

16
2015

Two alumni offer perspective on connecting with patients via online communities

The popularity of social media and online communities has created countless web sites offering medical advice. Some physicians wonder what role they should play – or even if they should get involved at all.

S. Larry Schlesinger, M'71

S. Larry Schlesinger, M’71

S. Larry Schlesinger, M’71, of Honolulu, Hawaii, and Brooke R. Seckel, M’69, of Boston, Mass., recently took the time to answer our questions about their choice to be active online. The two surgeons are among the top 100 most influential board-certified dermatologists and plastic surgeons in social media as compiled by RealSelf. The list honors board-certified doctors who are among the most active and highly rated on the online community where the general public poses questions and finds answers about cosmetic surgery, dermatology, dentistry and other elective treatments.

Both Seckel and Schlesinger point to the fact that an increasing number of patients use the internet to find doctors and check their credentials. “Over 68 percent of patients search online to help them make health care decisions,” says Seckel. Schlesinger emphasizes the point, saying “the choice is to engage online communities or be invisible.”

An online presence not only makes finding a doctor easier, but it also allows patients to become more informed about medical procedures and make better decisions about which doctor to choose. Schlesinger points out that although many patients still find doctors through traditional referrals from friends, family or other doctors, “patients are still going to the internet to validate their decisions.”

Brooke R. Seckel, M'69

Brooke R. Seckel, M’69

Seckel says that “patients who come in for consultation after reading on RealSelf are usually very well informed. An informed patient is often more likely to understand their goals, be aware of complications, able to complete a better informed consent and understand the recovery period. This typically makes management of these patients much easier and facilitates communication.”

Patients aren’t the only ones who benefit from online medical communities like RealSelf. By offering their advice to patients online, doctors like Seckel and Schlesinger improve their social network ranking on Google and other sites, increasing the likelihood that patients will come across their names when searching for a doctor online.

Competition for page views and clicks will only increase as more people turn to the internet for medical advice. For now, the surgeons remained focused on educating patients and increasing the quality of care. Seckel says that his goal is to “educate and teach objectively and honestly,” and for his part Schlesinger says that “those practices which are transparent and engage online drive quality and patient satisfaction. The practice thrives and patients benefit.”

Schlesinger offers plastic surgery services in three locations in Hawaii. He was the first plastic surgeon in Hawaii to be chosen as physician of the year by his peers in the Hawaii Medical Association. With more than 30 years of plastic surgery experience, he has performed more than 18,300 plastic surgery procedures.

Seckel practices with Boston Plastic Surgery Specialists and is an assistant professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. He is chairman emeritus of plastic surgery at Lahey Clinic where he founded the Lahey Clinic Department of Plastic Surgery and the Lahey Clinic Residency Training Program in Plastic Surgery.

By Jack Carmichael

12
2015

Graduate students hone communication skills at annual Forbes Research Colloquium

The nine students at annual Forbes Research Colloquium

Nine students participated in the Forbes Research Colloquium: (from left to right, standing) Ali Bonakdar Tehrani, Shiping Zou, Natalie Wheeler, Justin Sperlazza, Kyle Ferber and Jeanine Guidry; (l-r, seated) Anting Hsiung, Wafa Tarazi and Amrita Sule.

The ability to tell the story behind the research can be key to securing funding, presenting findings and raising awareness with peers as well as the general public. The 43rd annual John C. Forbes Research Colloquium gave graduate students in the biomedical sciences the chance to develop both written and oral presentation skills.

Nine students presented research findings in a short talk format on March 12 in Sanger Hall. Selected on the basis of the quality and clarity of a written description of their research projects, the students’ oral presentations were also evaluated by members of the faculty on the basis of how effectively they communicated the research.

Student participants represented more than a half dozen programs in the medical school:

  • Kyle Ferber, Department of Biostatistics
    Modeling Censored Discrete Survival Time in High-Dimensional Settings
  • Jeanine D. Guidry, Department of Social and Behavioral Health
    On Pins and Needles: How Vaccines Are Portrayed on Pinterest
  • Anting Hsiung, Department of Human and Molecular Genetics
    CMYA5, a Candidate Gene for Schizophrenia: Expression in the Brain and the Effect of a Functional Variant on Binding
  • Justin Sperlazza, Cancer and Molecular Medicine
    Depletion of the Chromatin Remodeler CHD4 Sensitizes AML Blasts to Genotoxic Agents and Reduces Tumor Initiation
  • Amrita Sule, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
    A PP2A-ATM Protein Complex Regulates the DNA Damage Response and Pro-Survival Signaling
  • Wafa W. Tarazi, MHPA, Department of Healthcare Policy and Research
    Medicaid Expansion and Access to Care among Cancer Survivors
  • Ali Bonakdar Tehrani, Healthcare Policy and Research
    Closing the Medicare Doughnut Hole: The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Prescription Drug Access, Utilization and Spending
  • Natalie A. Wheeler, Neuroscience
    The Autotaxin-LPA Axis Mediates Changes in Gene Expression and Histone Acetylation during Oligodendrocyte Differentiation
  • Shiping Zou, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology
    Oligodendrocytes Are Targets of HIV-1 Tat: NMDA and AMPA Receptor-Mediated Effects on Survival and Development
John Forbes, Ph.D.

John Forbes, Ph.D., a pioneer of VCU’s Ph.D. training program

“The event memorializes the pioneering effort of John Forbes who organized our institution’s entry into advanced degree training over 80 years ago,” said Jan F. Chlebowski, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate education at the VCU School of Medicine. “He was the first advisor of graduate students at what was then the Medical College of Virginia.”

John C. Forbes, Ph.D., is one of the pioneers of VCU’s Ph.D. training program. Along with Charles Clayton, Ph.D., and Daniel Watts, Ph.D., Forbes founded and grew advanced degree education at MCV, which at one time was among the top 10 producers of Ph.D. graduates in medical centers nationally.

Forbes joined the MCV faculty in the Department of Biochemistry in 1927. He grew to be internationally recognized as an authority in cholesterol-atherosclerosis research and alcoholism. During his tenure, Forbes became the first chairman of the Committee on Graduate Studies in 1934, supervising the first two graduate students receiving their degree from MCV. Because of his insight and dedication to the advancement and excellence in research and as a pioneer in graduate education, the School of Medicine recognizes Forbes in its continuing awareness and promotion of those students who are dedicating their lives to the advancement of science.

The medical school’s Office of Graduate Education coordinates the annual event, which is supported by a fund established by the Forbes family.

05
2015

Physiology alumna Wendy LeBolt’s new book focuses on keeping young athletes healthy and on the field

Wendy LeBolt , Ph.D.

Wendy LeBolt , Ph.D.

In her new book, “Fit 2 Finish: Keeping Your Soccer Players in the Game,” Wendy LeBolt , Ph.D., ’90, offers practical advice to young athletes, as well as to their parents and their coaches, on how to improve fitness and skills while being healthy, avoiding injuries and staying motivated. The book is a compilation of the advice LeBolt has provided for years via her organization Fit 2 Finish, which offers seminars, videos and blogs on how to support and train children competing in sports such as soccer, basketball and volleyball as well as other less common sports.

LeBolt received a Ph.D. in physiology from the School of Medicine in 1990 and went on to become a professor at George Washington University. When her daughters got old enough to play sports, she quickly noticed how many young athletes suffered injuries. Conversations with former George Mason Women’s Soccer coach Diane Drake confirmed the prevalence of athletes with physical injuries at the college level.

A recent article in the Connection newspapers describes how LeBolt then decided to form Fit 2 Finish as a way of informing coaches and parents about healthy ways of training their children, with an emphasis on not only increasing fitness but also decreasing the likelihood of injury.

LeBolt’s program also offers off-the-field advice for kids and coaches. She teaches about the potential risks of individual sports, how to help kids deal with the emotional and mental pressures of playing sports and post-rehab training for athletes who are returning to the field after an injury. It’s all part of LeBolt’s mission of keeping healthy kids on the field playing sports. Read more about Fit 2 Finish and LeBolt’s new book at http://fit2finish.com/

By Jack Carmichael

22
2015

Annual brunch gives donors, students a chance to celebrate $1.8 million in scholarships

Ben Lindsey

The Class of 2015’s Ben Lindsey was chosen to speak on behalf of his fellow students at the MCV Foundation’s annual scholarship brunch. He told the assembled donors, “Your confidence in us is an incredibly inspiring gift and we hope to one day be in your shoes, giving back to MCV.”

See more photos from the MCV Foundation’s Scholarship Brunch. Photo credit: Chris Ijams, CSI Studios, LLC.

Students, alumni, faculty and friends from the MCV Campus recently gathered at the MCV Foundation Scholarship Brunch to celebrate the outstanding financial support given to students across the campus each year.

The event provides an opportunity for students and donors to get to know each other, as scholarship recipients thank donors for their generosity and donors have the pleasure of hearing what a difference their gifts have made. This year’s brunch included 127 donors and 142 students from across the MCV Campus, all of whom had a connection to the over $1.8 million paid out in scholarships and awards this year.

This past year’s numbers are impressive: 325 endowed scholarships, 431 students who receive financial aid and three dozen new scholarships established. But the brunch offers a chance to look beyond the numbers to the real reason for the donors’ generosity: the students. This year’s event featured a speech by fourth-year medical student Ben Lindsey, who holds the Kinloch Nelson Scholarship.

Ben told the audience that his scholarship gave him a sense of tradition, power and confidence that he will continue to carry even after he leaves the MCV Campus. His scholarship is named after Kinloch Nelson, M.D., the beloved Dean of Medicine who is credited with starting the school’s Department of Family Practice and for whom the Nelson Clinic is named.

Ben described looking around the campus and seeing signs of Dr. Nelson’s legacy everywhere, including within himself.

Kinloch Nelson, M’98 and his wife Melissa Nelson, M’98

Kinloch Nelson, M’98, and his wife Melissa Nelson, M’98, attended the scholarship brunch to meet the Class of 2015’s Ben Lindsey who holds a scholarship that memorializes the former Dean of Medicine Kinloch Nelson, M.D. The Class of 1998’s Nelson is a descendant of Dean Nelson.

See more photos from the MCV Foundation’s Scholarship Brunch. Photo credit: Chris Ijams, CSI Studios, LLC.

“It is both incredibly humbling and motivating to realize that I maintain the support of this legacy through the Kinloch Nelson scholarship,” he said. “Through legacies like the Nelsons’, the scholarships we receive are far more valuable than their intrinsic monetary worth.”

Ben also took the opportunity to talk about the strength of the MCV Campus’ alumni network. Before coming to the School of Medicine, Ben worked as a medical scribe in Charlottesville, Va. He noted that “Many of the residents with whom I worked during that job had attended medical school at MCV. They tended to be the most competent residents and they raved about the clinical experience they had received while attending MCV for medical school. Thus, it was my interaction with these MCV alumni and my desire for an unparalleled clinical experience that convinced me to aim for MCV.”

The School of Medicine’s alumni have continued to impress him as he looks beyond graduation this spring. Ben just finished interviewing for residency positions, a process that took him to hospitals and academic medical centers across the country. He was happy to find that everywhere he interviewed there were connections to the MCV Campus and alumni were excited to meet him and help out however they could.

These stories about the impact of scholarships and the importance of active alumni are what make the brunch such a success. Students like Ben show donors the real results of their generosity and how scholarships mean much more than financial aid. The brunch is also meaningful for students, as they get to better understand the legacies that the scholarships represent. As Ben said at the close of his speech to the assembled donors, “You have indescribably enhanced our time as students here at MCV. Your confidence in us is an incredibly inspiring gift and we hope to one day be in your shoes, giving back to MCV.”

By Jack Carmichael