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School of Medicine discoveries

December 2008 Archives


The day Dr. Ken Ellenbogen discovered how ultrasound views from inside the heart allow better diagnosis and treatment of atrial fibrillation.

Traditionally, ultrasound imaging of the heart is done outside the chest with a probe and requires a large, heavy machine that cannot be moved easily. Now, the VCU Pauley Heart Center is the first in the United States to use a new type of intracardiac ultrasound machine that produces enhanced imaging of the heart, allowing cardiac electrophysiologists to better diagnose and treat atrial fibrillation. Intracardiac ultrasound uses a special catheter that is laced through a blood vessel in the leg and advanced into the heart. “We’re going from a machine that is quite big and takes up a lot of space to one the size of a laptop computer that is positioned at the bedside. It gives us spectacular images of the heart, our catheters in the heart and the structures in the heart and helps us do an even better job of ablating atrial fibrillation more safely and more effectively,” said Kenneth Ellenbogen, M.D., professor of cardiology and director of the cardiac electrophysiology lab at the VCU Medical Center, who performed the imaging technique using the new technology.

Read more about the new technology


The day Dr. Paul Fisher discovered a new anti-tumor gene

In a discovery that could one day lead to an effective gene therapy for cancer, Paul Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D., has identified a new anti-tumor gene called SARI that can suppress growth and survival of tumor cells by interfering with the action of cancer cell molecules that drive cell division and promote survival. According to Fisher, who is professor and chair of the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics and director of the VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine, the findings highlight a previously unrecognized molecular pathway underlying the anti-tumor action of interferon, INF. The study was published online in the December 8 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more about Dr. Fisher’s findings


The day third-year students discovered the difference between murmurs that wheeze, blow or growl.

For third-year medical students mastering the nuances of murmurs that wheeze, blow or growl, the medical school’s newest patient simulator — Harvey — doubles as a valued teacher and improves the students’ approach to physical exams. Harvey realistically simulates 30 cardiac conditions, challenging students to track varying blood pressure and pulse, as well as heart and breath sounds.

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The Health of Harvey’s Heart


The day Captain Lipid felt the love

Dr. Mac Grogan, director of the first-year Medical Biochemistry course, is known for his instruction on lipids, those fats and fat-like substances that are our body’s building blocks. His students affectionately call him “Captain Lipid,” and when they learned Dr. Grogan planned to retire after 37 years of service, they decided to honor their instructor with a surprise going away party. Dr. Grogan, a favorite among his students and his colleagues, will be deeply missed. His bon voyage party was standing room only, with students lined up out the door waiting to say a few words to the Grogans.

Bon Voyage Party Photos


Dr. Grogan’s family was on hand to celebrate the day with him. He is pictured here with his wife Virginia (left), their daughter and son-in-law and granddaughters.


The president of the Class of 2012, Andrew Junkin, presents Dr. Grogan with the Class of 2012’s White Coat photo, signed by the class members.


Linda Costanzo and the Class of 2011’s President Justin Cross cut Dr. Grogan’s cake, which read: Captain Lipid, Bon Voyage and Thanks!


Photos are courtesy of Shivani Shodan, Class of 2011, pictured here with Dr. Grogan.


The day the VCU Pauley Heart Center Discovered the Inaugural Winner of the McCue Award for Woman Cardiologist of the Year.

Noel Bairey Merz, M.D., a nationally recognized authority on preventive cardiology and women’s heart health, has taken the top honor in the inaugural Dr. Carolyn McCue Woman Cardiologist of the Year Award program, presented by the Virginia Commonwealth University Pauley Heart Center.

The McCue Award honors the memory of Dr. Carolyn McCue, one of the few female cardiologists of her time and a pioneer in the field of pediatric cardiology, who practiced at the Medical College of Virginia, now the VCU Medical Center, for 42 years. She created and chaired the school’s Pediatric Cardiology Division for 20 years, during which she was instrumental in establishing pediatric cardiology clinics in medically underserved communities throughout Virginia.

The McCue Award is made possible by a grant from the McCue family “to encourage and inspire other young women to pursue careers in cardiology.” The award carries a $10,000 prize and will be presented at a ceremony in Richmond on February 26, 2009. The family plans to make it an annual award.

Read more about Dr. Merz and the Inaugural McCue Award


The day Ike Wood, M.D., discovered that celebrated architect I.M. Pei would design the medical school’s new building.

Planning for the state-of-the-art training hub got a jump start with the selection of the Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei.

Examples of Pei’s design include the Louvre’s Pyramid, Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. The new School of Medicine building’s 12 stories will be home to a transformed curriculum that emphasizes simulation as well as innovative approaches to interactive team-based learning.

Ike Wood, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education and student affairs, is leading the project and, at the Curriculum Under Construction Web site, you can track his team’s progress on both the building’s construction and the curriculum’s renovation.

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Curriculum Under Construction

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Updated: 04/29/2016