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School of Medicine discoveries

October 2008 Archives


The day the School of Medicine discovered that seven of its programs were honored among VCU’s 40 Acts of Caring.

As part of its 40th anniversary, VCU honored 40 projects, activities and initiatives through which the university’s students and faculty help their local, regional and global communities. These volunteer service projects included seven with ties to the medical school:

For more than 10 years, the Honduras Outreach Medical Brigada Relief Effort has sent medical students to rural Honduras the summer after their M1 year. Putting their caring and beliefs into action, a new crop of first-year students annually take charge of HOMBRE, providing Honduran citizens with basic clinical care, health education and more. HOMBRE students spend the school year before their trip raising funds to support travel and purchase medication and supplies for their Honduran patients. For 10 days the students work alongside physicians, nurses and pharmacists at two clinics, as well as visiting patients in their homes, providing care in schools and initiating public health projects, such as clean water filter programs.

ASK for Comfort, a partnership between students from VCU’s Department of Fashion Design and Merchandising and ASK, an organization that supports the VCU Children’s Medical Center hematology/oncology unit. The students created, designed, fabricated and printed loungewear to replace the typical hospital gowns worn by children and young adults with cancer being treated at VCU Medical Center. These garments will be given to all new patients through a grant from Cotton Inc., and ASK.

Bridging the Gap aims to break the cycle of violence for Richmond-area youths hospitalized for injuries including gunshot wounds, stab wounds and assault injuries. A collaboration between four hospital departments, the program provides a six-step intervention designed to help hospitalized youths consider alternative, nonviolent strategies for conflict resolution, develop safety plans and make more constructive life choices.

Now in its third year, the Cancer Survivor Symposium Series offers four to five interactive and educational symposiums per year for the Richmond community. These sessions address issues commonly faced by cancer survivors across clinical, emotional and everyday practical domains and feature national speakers, together with local experts, discussing cutting-edge survivor topics.

The Community Health Information Network is a comprehensive consumer health outreach effort that provides consumer health information to patients and community members. Offering access in minority communities that is otherwise unavailable, the program has seen particular success reaching out to the African-American and Hispanic communities of Central Virginia. COIN was one of 10 finalists for the 2006 National Commission on Library and Information Science’s Health Information Awards.

With philanthropic support from community partners, the Institute for Women’s Health is identifying community needs and gaps in services and responses in relation to sexual violence awareness, prevention and intervention. The institute provided a nurse who offers health assessment and education for women and their children at three area domestic violence shelters, as well as an on-site advocate in the VCU Medical Center emergency room for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Since 2003 the VCU T.E.E.N.S. Program has enrolled more than 350 children and adolescents in a healthy weight management program. A collaborative effort among three VCU departments provides participants with two years of nutrition education sessions with registered dietitians; physical activity sessions in the Department of Health and Human Performance’s Wellness Laboratory under the supervision of faculty and students; behavioral support sessions; and a parent education intervention targeting health behaviors and parenting skills. The innovative program contends with adolescent obesity, a major public health issue, and provides a learning laboratory for numerous disciplines including exercise science, psychology and medicine.

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40 Acts of Caring


The day epidemiologists discovered broad-based infection control programs are more effective than mandatory MRSA screenings.

Three medical school faculty are downplaying the value of mandatory universal nasal screening of patients for MRSA that have been mandated by some states, including Pennsylvania, Illinois, California and New Jersey. Writing in the November issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the team argues that “hospitals get more bang for their buck with evidence-based infection control prevention.”

MRSA infections cause only 14 percent of hospital infections and investing huge resources into their control is less effective than implementing programs that would reduce the burden of all infections by 50 percent. Further, the cost of nasal swabbing tests for all patients in a screening program was estimated to be two to three times that of adding additional infection control nurses for a broad infection control program.
The team suggests that a focused screening program would have made more sense in the late 1980s and early 1990s since MRSA was the key in antibiotic-resistant pathogens. However, in the last 15 years hospitals are facing multiple bacteria with broad resistance and efforts need to be broad based with a goal of reducing the overall burden of infections.
“The key safety question today, since it is possible to reduce the total risk of hospital infections by half with a broad-based infection control program, is what is the incremental benefit of a component focusing on a single antibiotic-resistant pathogen?” said Richard P. Wenzel, M.D., chair of internal medicine.

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Researchers downplay MRSA screening as effective infection control intervention


The day Emergency Medicine Chair, Joseph Ornato, M. D., discovered he’d been elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine.

Election to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. Joseph Ornato, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, is among the 65 new members and five foreign associates who are the latest to be elected to the IOM.

A pioneer in resuscitation after cardiac arrest, he chaired the steering committee for the NIH Public Access Defibrillation trial that showed laypersons using automated external defibrillators in public places — like airports and sporting events — can double the number of lives saved from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. He also is co-chair of the NIH’s $50M Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium, a network of 10 U.S. and Canadian sites that are performing large, randomized clinical trials testing promising drugs and devices that may save more lives from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and major traumatic injury.

Ornato joins Jerome F. Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the School of Medicine, Steven Woolf, M.D., M.P.H., professor of family medicine, and Kenneth Kendler, M.D., professor of psychiatry who already serve on the IOM, providing independent analysis and recommendations on human health issues.

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VCU Medical Center physician elected to Institute of Medicine

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Updated: 04/29/2016