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March 2011 Archives


The day that Mary Ann Turner was recognized for her lifetime achievements in the field of gastrointestinal radiology

Mary Ann Turner, M.D., professor and vice chair of the Department of Radiology, is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Gastrointestinal Radiologists.

The annual award was bestowed for the first time during the 2011 meeting of the Society of Gastrointestinal Radiologists. In its inaugural year, two awards were given to Turner and to Francis J. Scholz, M.D., of the Lahey Clinic, a teaching hospital of Tufts University School of Medicine.

The award recognizes the two distinguished gastrointestinal radiologists for their outstanding contributions to the field of gastrointestinal and abdominal radiology. Scholz and Turner were honored during the 2011 Abdominal Radiology Course Meeting in Carlsbad, Calif., on March 20‐25.

Read more about Turner’s award [PDF].


The day alum Larry Schlesinger returned to campus to speak with students

The Class of 1971’s Larry Schlesinger returned to campus in March and had the chance to speak with students about his life’s experiences.

Larry Schlesinger and students

Larry Schlesinger, M’71, with four current medical students who have received the Miles Hench Scholarship.

He says a highlight of his visit was sharing lunch with the four current medical students who received the Miles Hench Scholarship in their M1 year. Schlesinger established the Dr. Miles Hench Scholarship in honor of the medical school’s former dean of admissions who gave Schlesinger the opportunity to pursue his dream of a medical career. Though he was the last person admitted to the Class of 1971, Schlesinger served as president of AOA and graduated at the top of his class.

The scholarship he established is awarded each year to the last person admitted to the entering medical school class.

Schlesinger, who specializes in plastic surgery in far-away Hawaii, nevertheless returns to campus periodically, usually in connection with Reunion Weekend. This year, he joined plastic surgery for their Grand Rounds and presented a lunch lecture that was open to all medical students.

In 2000, Schlesinger was named Hawaii’s “Physician of the Year” for his volunteer work with drug-addicted physicians and for his work in establishing a medical clinic for the homeless as well as the Maui drug court.


Alumnus shares his view on becoming a patient

One moment, the Class of 1999’s John Zakaib was the on-call heart doctor at the Cleveland Clinic where he was completing his general cardiology fellowship. Then the tables turned, and he became the patient.

Martha Jefferson Magazine

In the cover story of spring issue of Martha Jefferson Hospital’s magazine, Zakaib tells his story. “As I sat up and the tech removed my IV, I looked through the glass window into the control room. I could see several of the doctors still paging though the images on the screens, but several others were looking straight back at me. I recognized that look. Something was wrong. In that instant, I knew I had become a patient. It was one of the most transformative moments of my life.”

Now the cardiologist is director of electrophysiology at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville. He says the experience changed him for the better. “I got to step out of my white coat and gain a sense of the fragility of life that I never got when I was the one doing the procedure on someone else. I think that may just be the thin pane between sympathy and empathy — the difference between an insight into and understanding of someone else’s experience and the very human realization that it could just as easily be happening to you.”

After earning his medical degree, Zakaib stayed on the MCV Campus to complete an internal medicine residency in 2003, serving an additional year as chief resident. He pursued cardiovascular disease training at the Cleveland Clinic where he also served as chief fellow in cardiology and completed a fellowship in cardiac electrophysiology.

The cover story, titled Role Reversal, is available online.


The day more than 100 Girl Scouts got an up close look at a career in science

On March 19, the Women in Science student organization hosted more than 100 Girl Scouts from the Central Virginia area for the fifth annual Medical Science Career Day.

Girl Scouts special activity patch

Participating Girl Scouts earned a special activity patch to wear on their uniforms.

The event was organized by Charlotte Roberts, a graduate student in biochemistry and vice president of community outreach for Women in Science. “This event serves as an outreach for young girls to develop or maintain a love for science and hopefully attain aspirations to develop a science career in the future.”

The Girls Scouts toured campus, met and worked with women scientists and participated in interactive learning activities in classrooms and laboratories in the schools of medicine and allied health professions. The Girl Scouts were accompanied on their visit to the MCV Campus by their parents and troop leaders.

The Girl Scouts represented 17 troops from the Richmond area, Fredericksburg, Tappahannock and Colonial Heights. This is the fifth year the student organization has offered the program that encourages young women to consider careers in medical, dental and research sciences.

The annual event is popular with Women in Science President Sureni Mullegama, as well. “The WIS Girl Scout day allows us to demonstrate to a wide age range of young girls how scientific research is exciting and what a research setting feels and looks like,” the graduate student in human and molecular genetics said. “It really is a fun way for us to introduce these girls to research in a way that most won’t get exposed to until college. We, as WIS organization, think this event is a great way to share to the younger generation our love for science and hopefully start a new generation of budding women scientists.”

Women in Science supports and promotes the career development of women scientists at VCU by increasing the representation, participation and leadership of women in scientific disciplines and by promoting the leadership skills, visibility and academic policies required for success at VCU and in the sciences. VCU is an institutional member of the Association for Women in Science.


The day the MCV Campus got a look at the future of neuroprosthetics

Symposium speakers

Symposium speakers included (from left) the University of Pittsburgh’s Andrew Schwarz, Ph.D., Patrick Tresco, Ph.D., chair of biomedical engineering at the University of Utah, Tom Anastasio, Ph.D., from the University of Illinois-Champlain, and Col. Geoffrey Ling M.D., Ph.D., chair of neurology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

Trauma, disease or birth can leave patients unable to interact with the world around them. Researchers in the field of restorative medicine are exploring the potential of electro-mechanical devices that could serve amputees and paralytics, allowing them to use their own brain signals to drive computer-controlled prosthetics.

On March 18, leaders in the field of Brain-Machine Interface gathered on the MCV Campus to discuss recent advances in neuroprosthetics and how compatible their materials are with the human body as well as our understanding of how a patient’s brain controls these increasingly sophisticated machines.

The symposium was led off by Peter Pidcoe, PT, Ph.D., an associate professor in VCU’s Department of Physical Therapy, who provided a comprehensive overview of the history and variety of prosthetic devices as well as their design and effectiveness.

Symposium speaker

The symposium was led off by Peter Pidcoe, PT, Ph.D., an associate professor in VCU’s Department of Physical Therapy, who provided a comprehensive overview of the history and variety of prosthetic devices as well as their design and effectiveness.

Other speakers took the audience step-by-step through the process:

  • To understand the brain signals that control movement in normal limbs or robotic prostheses, the University of Pittsburgh’s Andrew Schwarz, Ph.D., demonstrated that signals from populations of cortical neurons in a monkey can effectively drive a robotic arm. Schwartz is a pioneer in brain-machine interfaces since the late 1980s; he also was organizer and key speaker at the Annual Aspen Brain forum in 2010 on Building a Better Brain.
  • For neural signals to drive prostheses, those signals must be converted into computer language. Neuro-computationalist Tom Anastasio, Ph.D., from the University of Illinois-Champlain, explained the mathematical bases of neural signaling. Anastasio wrote one of the first textbooks on the principles of neuro-computing.
  • To send a neural message from a living brain to a computer, an artificial interface must be implanted into neural tissue. Patrick Tresco, Ph.D., chair of biomedical engineering at the University of Utah and a renowned expert on biocompatible materials, showed that long-term electrode implantation can be optimized by engineering electrodes with novel geometries and coatings.
  • The U.S. Army Med Corps’ Col. Geoffrey Ling M.D., Ph.D., chair of neurology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, presented a compelling justification for this collaboration between biomedical research and engineering and also showed numerous film clips of patients successfully manipulating their new prosthetic limbs. In addition to serving as program manager at DARPA, Ling is a standing council member of the NINDS and heads various VA organizations for treatment of soldiers with head trauma.

The 23rd Annual Neuroscience Symposium was attended by 80 VCU faculty and students, faculty from Virginia Union University and a contingent of biomedical engineering students from the University of Virginia. It was hosted by the Society for Neuroscience’s Central Virginia Chapter, the president of which is Alex Meredith, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and neurobiology.

For more information about the conference, contact Alex Meredith at mameredi@vcu.edu or Ruth Clemo at rclemo@vcu.edu.


The day the medical school learned alum John Butterworth would return to lead the anesthesiology department

The Class of 1979’s John F. Butterworth IV, has been named professor and chair of the Department of Anesthesiology.

John F. Butterworth IVButterworth has served as the R.K. Stoelting professor and chair of anesthesiology at the Indiana University School of Medicine for six years. Before that, he was professor and head of the section on cardiothoracic anesthesiology at Wake Forest University, where he was on the faculty from 1985-2005. He has served on numerous academic committees at these institutions and on the American Society of Anesthesiologists and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the International Anesthesia Research Society.

His research interests include the mechanisms and side effects of local anesthetics and clinical pharmacology and outcomes in cardiovascular anesthesia. He is the author of two books and editor of a third, “Fundamental Principles and Practices of Anaesthesia.” He also has authored 132 original articles and 35 book chapters. He is currently a member of the editorial boards of Pain Research and Treatment and Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine and is an associate editor of Anesthesiology and of Anesthesia and Analgesia.

A Richmond native, Butterworth received his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and his medical degree from the VCU School of Medicine in 1979. He was the trauma research fellow in the then Division of Neurosurgery from 1979-80. He completed his internship in surgery at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and his residency training in anesthesiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 1984.

His appointment will be effective June 6, 2011.

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Updated: 04/29/2016