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School of Medicine discoveries

May 2009 Archives


The Day 14-year-old Evelyn learned surgery to remove her brain tumor was a success

A story in the August 3, 2009 edition of the Fredericksburg Freelance-
Star chronicles the risky surgery that 14-year-old Evelyn underwent in May. For half of her life, she had dealt with painful headaches as well as problems with vision and balance that were the results of an optic pathway glioma, a slow-growing and benign tumor that was nonetheless dangerous because of its location amidst the brain’s blood vessels and nerves.

When chemotherapy and radiation failed to stop the growth of the tumor that had reached the size of a tangerine, neurosurgeon Gary Tye, M.D., recommended a more aggressive approach.

Read the Freelance-Star article “Risky surgery yields great results for teen” for details on the difficult surgery and the later brain scan that revealed the surgery’s success.


The day Dr. Reavey-Cantwell used a New Liquid Treatment for Brain Aneurysms

John Reavey-Cantwell, M.D., an endovascular neurosurgeon and assistant professor and Reynolds Chair in the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Neurosurgery, is among the first in the country to treat a patient using an FDA-approved liquid system for treating wide-necked brain aneurysms.

“A wide-necked brain aneurysm occurs in about 25 percent of patients with brain aneurysms,” said Reavey-Cantwell. “Wide-necked aneurysms can be difficult to treat surgically, which requires removal of bone and manipulation of the brain.”

The new liquid treatment uses a minimally invasive endovascular procedure to treat the aneurysm from within the blood vessel.

The VCU Medical Center is one of about 25 hospitals in the United States to perform this procedure as an alternative to conventional surgery. To date, there have been no research studies conducted to show whether this new liquid system is effective for treating wide-neck aneurysms, but initial clinical results are encouraging, according to Reavey-Cantwell.

The new treatment has been approved under a humanitarian device exemption from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which allows physicians to use the liquid to treat the condition, which affects fewer than 4,000 individuals in the United States per year and for which no comparable device is available.

Read more


The day Style Weekly published an architectural review of the new Molecular Medicine Research Building

In April, the medical school dedicated its new Molecular Medicine Research Building, a $71.5 million, eight-story, 125,000 gsf research facility that houses the power to transform understanding of illness and disease and to ultimately uncover new therapies and cures.

In its May 19 issue, Style Weekly’s Edwin Slipek, Jr. judges the facility’s architectural impact on its surroundings—a block that he describes as an “architecturally rich spot.”

Read the Style Weekly online article


The day department chairs were appointed

The VCU Board of Visitors has approved the appointments of nationally recognized leaders to head three medical school departments.

Bruce K. Rubin, M.D., has been named chair of the Department of Pediatrics, effective July 1, and will hold a professorship in the VCU School of Engineering. Rubin is a pediatric pulmonary expert and was recently selected as the recipient of the 2008 Forrest M. Bird Lifetime Scientific Achievement Award, a top research honor given by the American Respiratory Care Foundation and the American Association of Respiratory Care, among other honors.

Rubin’s specific clinical and research interests include cystic fibrosis, childhood asthma and other chronic lung diseases. He is on the editorial board of 12 pulmonary journals, has published more than 200 research papers and chapters and holds five patents. He comes to VCU after 12 years at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., where he is professor and vice chair for research in the pediatrics department, professor of physiology and pharmacology and professor of biomedical engineering with the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences.

Leah Bush, M.D., has been appointed as chair of the Department of Legal Medicine. Bush is chief medical examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia and succeeds Marcello Fierro, M.D.

Bush, a School of Medicine alumna, completed a forensic pathology fellowship at the Medical Examiner’s Office in Richmond. She has been a medical examiner for the commonwealth since 1986, and has been chief medical examiner since 2008.

Cathy J. Bradley, Ph.D., has been named interim chair of the Department of Public Health Management and Policy. The Department of Public Health Management and Policy, a key department in the emerging School of Public Health, is currently housed in the medical school and is a new initiative that will strengthen health services research at VCU, benefiting all health science schools.

Bradley is professor of Health Administration and co-leader of Cancer Prevention and Control at the Massey Cancer Center. Over the past 12 years, Bradley has developed a research agenda that examines the economic aspects of cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship. Her groundbreaking work has received both national and international recognition. She has received funding from the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, the Commonwealth Fund, Michigan Department of Community Health and the HRB of the Republic of Ireland where her research on employment and cancer is being replicated. Most recently, the National Cancer Institute selected Bradley’s research for inclusion in its Grantee Research Highlights―selected highlights of the research conducted by the NCI’s Applied Research Program grantees. The program supports research grants that examine how and why cancer care and control activities in the United States influence patterns of care and trends in cancer incidence, morbidity, mortality and survival.


The day Ann Miller Wilson became the 15th member of her family to earn her medical degree on the MCV Campus.


At the medical school’s convocation ceremony on May 15, Miller was honored as one of her class’ legacy graduates. She was joined on the stage by her grandmother Mrs. E. D. Sowder, whose father and grandfather were MCV graduates.

The Davis family’s connection to medical school spans 128 years.

On May 15, 2009, Ann Miller Wilson shook the hand of the dean of the medical school, recited the Hippocratic Oath and joined the medical profession. Just as her great-great-grandfather must have done in 1885.

A member of the Class of 1894, John Gibson Davis, M.D., was the first of his family to attend the Medical College of Virginia. Part of the first medical school class to take the Virginia state medical board exams, he also blazed the trail that 13 of his descendants followed over the next 12 decades.

For her senior project this semester, Ann Miller Wilson—or “Miller” as she’s known—chronicled the five generations of her family who walked the halls and hospitals of the MCV Campus on their way to earning their medical degrees. Associate Professor of Anesthesiology Robert A. Kravetz, M.D., oversaw her historical research that produced a power point presentation packed with family pictures and archival documents that have somehow stood the test of time.


Ann Miller Wilson, M’09, is the 15th member of five generations of her family to graduate from the medical school.

At his death at the age of 89, Miller’s great-great grandfather John Gibson Davis was the oldest practicing physician in the Roanoke Valley. At that point, all five of his sons had already followed in his footsteps to MCV where they too, earned their medical degrees. One of those sons was Miller’s great-grandfather Paul Davis, M’15 who would try—unsuccessfully—to discourage his daughter Pauline from carrying on the family tradition.

The summer before her matriculation to medical school, the Roanoke Times reported her father’s perspective: “It was not my idea for her to take up the study of medicine. I have discouraged the idea from the beginning, but she seems firmly convinced that this is the only thing which will make her life happy.”

Pauline Davis would become one of just eight women to graduate with an M.D. from MCV in 1942. And until this year, she was the only woman in the Davis family with that accomplishment.

Of Pauline’s three sons who became physicians, one, Paul Carmichael, M’75, drew Miller into the profession. When she was in high school and college, he permitted her to scrub into his surgeries at Roanoke Memorial Hospital.

The 15th in her family to pursue her degree on the MCV Campus, Miller predicts, “There could be more of us on the way. Dr. Gordon Carmichael’s kids are in high school and want to go to medical school… no matter what I tell them.”


Ann Miller Wilson’s senior project chronicles not only her family’s history but also reflects the changing face of medicine. View her PowerPoint presentation.


The day that the Clarence Holland Lecture Got Its Start

Against a backdrop of D.C. debates on health-care costs, coverage and legislation, the Inaugural Clarence Holland Lecture challenged medical faculty and students to speak up.

In a talk titled “What’s the Right Thing for Doctors to Do, Once They Know?” Larry A. Green, M.D., professor of family medicine at the University of Colorado, reflected on the ethical problems inherent in today’s health care system. Presenting nearly two dozen “things we know,” Green chronicled the health care system’s shortcomings. He accused America’s system of delivering mediocre results at high prices and charges its watchdogs as preferring it to serve as a powerful economic engine rather than producing health.

The Clarence Holland Lectures was established by an anonymous benefactor to recognize the contributions that Clarence A. Holland, M.D., has made to the well-being of Virginians and to the ethics of health care. An alumnus of the Class of 1962, Holland practiced as a family physician for 42 years and served as a state senator for more than a decade.

Read more about the inaugural lecture

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Updated: 04/29/2016