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School of Medicine discoveries

July 2010 Archives


The day ABC News reported on Dom Sica’s opinion of a new finding on heart disease

A study published online on July 29, 2010, by the British Medical Journal linked calcium supplements to an increased risk of a heart attack.

The ABC News medical unit called on Domenic Sica, M.D., for his perspective on the study. Sica’s video interview was posted to the ABC News website on July 30. A graduate of the medical school’s class of 1975, Sica is now chairman of the VCU Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Hypertension.

Watch the video clip on the ABC News website.


The day USA Today quoted Dave Cifu on rehabilitation of war veterans

A front page article in the July 29, 2010, edition of USA Today describes the extensive rehabilitation that is sometimes required for soldiers who have suffered a traumatic brain injury on the battlefield.

David Cifu, M.D., chairman of physical medicine and rehabilitation, is also national director of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ PMR program. As such, he oversees the approach being pioneered at the VA’s four “emerging consciousness” programs in Minneapolis, Richmond, Tampa and Palo Alto, Calif. In the USA Today article, he offers his perspective on their 70 percent success rate at seeing once-comatose patients return to consciousness at the centers.

Read the full story, For troops with brain trauma, a long journey back.


The day a volunteer event drew students back to their home communities

Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine students, along with the Associate Dean of Admissions Michelle Whitehurst-Cook, M.D., traveled more than six hours west to Virginia’s underserved Appalachian Mountains in summer 2010. This was the 10th year she has volunteered with the Remote Area Medical, or RAM, Expedition.

VCU School of Medicine students, David Jessee and Jamie King.

Held annually at the Wise County fairgrounds in southwest Virginia, thousands of people gather, needing what most would call basic or routine care.

The RAM clinic provides free medical, dental and eye care for community members as well as those who travel across state lines for the opportunity. Each year VCU medical students encounter hundreds of patients whose lack of insurance causes them to delay evaluation and even treatment for medical issues.

“It is tremendously rewarding to personally help those who do not have the financial means to help themselves,” said Whitehurst-Cook, who is an alumna of the medical school’s class of 1979. “The patients’ ‘thank yous’ are worth millions.”

In the summer of 2010, two students felt a particularly close connection to the volunteer event. The students, David Jessee and Jamie King, call southwest Virginia home.

“I knew even before I was accepted to VCU that I wanted to participate in RAM,” said Jessee, a second-year student from Richlands. “I chose to participate because this is a rare opportunity to represent the School of Medicine while at the same time enhancing my clinical education and helping the less fortunate in my native community.”

Whitehurst-Cook agrees that participating in events like RAM is important to the students’ training. “There are many areas throughout the state of Virginia that are considered underserved, where access to doctors and nurses is very limited,” she said. “Understanding the diverse needs of patients is so important to being able to help them live healthier lives.”

This experience has shown these medical students how badly care is needed in the western areas of the state and how they can personally help in the future.

“I want to return and work somewhere in Appalachia,” said King, a third-year student from Pulaski. “I am interested in some form of primary care, family medicine, internal medicine or psychiatry.”

Jessee, too, plans on returning to southwest Virginia to practice medicine after residency. “My region has such a high demand for medical professionals and I see myself working to help those who need it the most.”

Students take away numerous real world experiences and emotions after participating in the three-day event. Jessee and King left knowing their services weren’t going unnoticed.

“I saw a lot of patients during RAM in a variety of capacities, and no matter what I was doing or who I assisted, seeing the gratitude on the faces of those we served had the most impact on my overall experience,” said Jessee.

The VCU School of Medicine also provides other opportunities for students who are interested in working in underserved areas. The International/Inner City/Rural Preceptorship program is designed to increase the number of primary care physicians working in both rural and urban areas and open to students who have an interest in practicing medicine in communities where physicians are in short supply.

Learn more about the free health clinic at the Kingsport, Tenn., TimesNews.net’s article and slideshow.


The day a team from the medical school delivered care for the underserved in Wise County

For the 10th year in a row, Michelle Whitehurst-Cook, M.D., made the six-hour drive to Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains for the Remote Area Medical Expedition’s free health clinic held annually at the Wise County fairgrounds.

This year, 14 medical students and a nurse from the family medicine clinic accompanied her. At the free clinic, they encounter patients whose lack of insurance causes them to delay evaluation and even treatment of medical issues.

Whitehurst-Cook, an associate professor of family medicine and associate dean for admissions in the medical school, recalls meeting one patient who had continued to work every day despite pain from fractured ribs and an injured knee. Over the course of his visit to the RAM clinic, the treatment team learned that he and his wife are the main care takers for their grandchildren. So in addition to medication for the pain, the treatment team made referrals to the local free clinic in his area and to social services to identify what other resources might be available to him.

The Kingsport, Tenn., TimesNews.net covered this year’s clinic with an article and pictures.


The day that Harry Young was visited by a patient from the past

Forty-one years had passed before the Chief of Neurosurgery, Harry Young, learned what happened to the young soldier he treated in Vietnam.
In December 1969, an exploding grenade had given Donald Mason a traumatic brain injury and a poor prognosis, recalled Young who was an Army surgeon at the time. The doctor and patient connected repeatedly, first in a Colorado Army hospital and again in Kansas City, but then their paths parted. Then, fast forward to July 2010 when Mason showed up in Young’s office at the VCU Medical Center.

Read more in Richmond Times-Dispatch story that appears on the front page of the July 21 Metro Section.


The day medical student Richard Hubbard returned from Bangladesh

When Richard Hubbard was an undergraduate global studies major, a summer research grant took him to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. There, for the first time, he encountered the extreme poverty and malnourished slum children who live on the streets of the capital city.

He met Halima, a year-old infant who weighed no more than seven pounds. Her eyes were sunken and distant, her extremities limp. As is often the case for Bangladeshi families whose father has died or abandoned the family, her mother could not provide for her five children on her wages as a dirt mover.

Hubbard intervened, taking Halima to a nearby hospital. He covered the resulting hospital bill and Halima eventually recovered. Hubbard would never be the same.

That was 2007 and was the first of Hubbard’s five trips to the South Asian country where he has founded the non-profit, Basic Needs Program, which provides housing, clothing, food, education and medical care to fatherless children.

As the organization’s president Hubbard handles big-picture decisions as well as raising funds to meet a steadily increasing budget that is expected to top $20,000 this year. Many in the medical school have been inspired by his work, including an anonymous faculty member who provided the funds to bring five new orphans into the program.

Read more about Hubbard’s connection to Bangladesh.

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Updated: 04/29/2016