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School of Medicine discoveries

November 2009 Archives


The day the first-year students discovered a new tradition and were sorted into four medical societies.

There was no Hogwart’s sorting hat in evidence. Instead, the first-year medical students were assigned to one of four new medical societies according to their career and specialty interests, learning styles and proficiencies.

The 50-student societies are a new initiative designed to maintain the medical school close-knit camaraderie, even in the face of recent increases in class size.

“We have always been extremely proud of the individualized attention our students get and their satisfaction in their relationships with the faculty and administration of the school,” says Isaac Wood, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education and student affairs. Wood speaks from the special perspective of a school alumnus – he was a member of the Class of 1982 – who joined the faculty and is now responsible for the students’ educational and campus experience.

In response to warnings of an impending physician shortage from national groups like the Association of American Medical Colleges, medical schools across the country have begun expanding their enrollments. This fall, the VCU School of Medicine’s incoming class numbered 200, a gradual increase from 184 in 2003.

“To emphasize our rich history and tradition,” says Wood, “the societies bear the names of four distinguished individuals with ties to the school.”

Faculty nominations were pared down to a top-10 list that was submitted to a vote among the first-year students. The four resulting honorees are: Mary Baughman, who was among MCV’s first female graduates; Baruj Benacerraf, a medical school alumnus who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology; Jean Harris, the first African-American student admitted to the medical school; and Augustus L. Warner, the medical school’s first dean.

The new societies will be headed by school administrators and faculty who will meet with the students individually to assist with academic and personal issues. The medical school’s new educational building set to open in 2013 will also promote unity within the groups by providing dedicated classrooms, small-group and breakout areas.

The academic year will culminate in a weeklong competition to be known as the Society Olympics. The society that demonstrates its academic and physical prowess will have its name inscribed on the Medicos Trophy, which takes its name from the MCV intercollegiate football team whose remarkable record included defeating William and Mary, Wake Forest University and Virginia Tech.


The day Drs. Ornato and Peberdy flew a dog to safety.

For Drs. Ornato and Peberdy, it’s a chance to combine two loves: for animals and for flying.

The Sunday November 22, 2009 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch featured the volunteer work of the pair, who recently made their inaugural flight with Pilots N Paws.

Joseph P. Ornato, M.D., is chair in the Department of Emergency Medicine and operational medical director of the Richmond Ambulance Authority. “Our job is to take care of patients and bail them out of a serious situation,” he told the Times-Dispatch. “In a way, this is like that.”

Usually their single engine airplane is used to ferry the medical school faculty members to professional meetings. But this weekend, it was used to fly Wolfie, a German shepherd mix, part of the way toward her new Boston area home.

Mary Ann Peberdy, M.D., is professor of medicine and emergency medicine in the Division of Cardiology.

Read the article at The Richmond Times Dispatch.


The day Dr. Woolf offered perspective on the new mammography guidelines in the Washington Post.

A set of mammography guidelines released on November 16, 2009 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has stirred controversy and debate among physicians and patients.

To offer perspective on the issue, Family Medicine Professor and housestaff alumnus Steven Woolf, M.D., H’93, co-authored a piece published in the November 20, 2009 edition of the Washington Post. Woolf, a longtime adviser to the Task Force and former panel member, paired with former assistant surgeon general Douglas Kamerow, M.D., who now serves as a chief scientist at RTI International and as a professor of clinical family medicine at Georgetown University.

In the piece titled “Parsing the Mammogram Guidelines,” the two explain the role of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and offer guidance on how patients should apply the guidelines to their own health care decision-making.

You can read the piece at The Washington Post.


The day RVANews checked out Bush’s life as Virginia’s Chief Medical Examiner.

A recent online story at RVANews features medical school alumna Leah Bush, M’84, H’88, and her responsibilities as Virginia’s Chief Medical Examiner. Bush also serves as chair of the Department of Legal Medicine in the medical school.

“I didn’t start off as a kid thinking this is what I want to do,” Bush told RVANews. “I always knew I wanted to be a doctor – but I thought more along the lines of surgery or OB – and ended up falling in love with [forensic pathology] as a career.”

RVANews is a self-described River-City-Centric “collective of Richmond area blogs, news, and all things awesome.” Read its story at RVANews.


The day Dean Strauss was quoted on the importance of philanthropy to the health of the medical and health system.

Richmond philanthropist Alice Goodwin has been named as the 2009 Richmond Christmas Mother. In her role, she encourages others to support The Salvation Army’s Christmas assistance program.

The November 15, 2009 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch profiled Goodwin, reporting that she and her husband have been generous to VCU, and its MCV Campus.

Jerome F. Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the medical school, offered his perspective on the importance of philanthropy to the health of the medical school and the health system:

“Medical centers achieve greatness because they receive enthusiastic community support. But make no mistake, it is far more than the philanthropy; it is the motivation that all of us have who are engaged in serving patients, or who work in the discovery arm of medicine, to exceed the expectations of people like Alice Goodwin who give so generously, particularly of their time and their wisdom.”

The Times-Dispatch reports that Goodwin “said she looks forward to extending the tradition of generosity that’s at the heart of the Christmas Mother program.” Read more about the program and about Goodwin at The Richmond Times Dispatch.


The day medical alumnus Larry Schlesinger, M’71 presents Hawaii’s experience with facilitating recovery for drug offenders, including physicians.

The challenge of recovering from addiction is daunting, whether you’re facing incarceration or the loss of your medical practice.

To spread the word of effective interventions, School of Medicine alumnus S. Larry Schlesinger, M’71, will serve as host and moderator for the Third Annual Project Hope/Disruptive Physician Conference in Honolulu on November 13, 2009.

The conference represents a marriage of sorts between two of Schlesinger’s chief passions. Board certified in addiction medicine and plastic surgery, Schlesinger who himself has marked 26 years of successful, continuous recovery from addiction, has said that his life’s purpose is “to stay clean and sober and help other alcoholics and drug addicts to achieve sobriety.”

With an eye on that goal, he is co-founder and current president of Friends of Project HOPE, a non-profit organization that supports the work of HOPE Probation, a high intensity supervision program launched by Hawaii’s courts system. Still the only of its kind in the nation, the program has seen a drop of 80 percent in Hawaii’s recidivism rate. The first half of the daylong conference will focus on the program’s approach to reducing probation violations by drug offenders and others who are at high risk of recidivism.

The afternoon session will address helping disruptive physicians, using the approach of another non-profit organization that Schlesinger heads. Pu`ulu Lapa`au helps physicians dealing with a range of impairments, from chemical dependency to disruptive behavior.

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Updated: 04/29/2016